Saving Science Fiction from Strong Female Characters – Part 6

I have written five essays under the provocative topic of saving science fiction from strong female characters, and proposed a rather unprovocative idea: namely, that woman can be both strong and feminine, and that one does not need to make them overtly masculine to make them admirable and edifying characters.

Indeed, I proposed the idea that confusing strength with masculinity is in truth not a feminist ideal, but a misogynistic idea. He is no friend of woman who says women must act masculine to be equal to men, because that merely makes the word ‘feminine’ equal ‘inferior’. Masculine and feminine are a complementary relationship, not a master-slave relationship. Is Ginger Rogers inferior to Fred Astair when they waltz, even if he leads? She does all the same steps he does, and she does them backward, and, most impressive of all, Ginger can make goofy Fred look like a dashing figure of elegant romance.

I proposed further that a brief, utterly unscientific survey of pre-1950 science fiction showed a healthy number of perfectly strong female characters even in the most boyish of boy’s literature, for example Jirel of Joiry or the Red Lensman Clarissa MacDougal or Dejah Thoris (who, in the text, is both a scientist and a maiden who talks and acts like a Spartan “were his wounds in his back?” -style matron).

The same unscientific survey showed a rise of weaker female characters in the form of Playboy-bunny-styled bits of fluff in the 1960’s and 1970’s. I believe I was the only respondent to this survey, so the answers showed one hundred percent of respondents quizzed being in agreement.

I suggest it to be no coincidence that this was when Feminism was at its height, for it was a time when, thanks (in part) to modern labor saving appliances, housewives were no longer mistresses of a separate but equal sphere, a domestic realm where they were queen; but neither were they welcome in the workforce, which was mostly a man’s world. It was a time when the returning servicemen, having survived the Four Horsemen of World War Two and the Great Depression, the Dustbowl and the Polio Epidemic, asked their women to be more feminine and domestic, and the women granted the prayer. It was also a time when the erosion of standards of decency made open immodesty in dress and behavior acceptable to the mainstream. It was the time of June Cleaver and Marilyn Monroe. It was the time of the dumb blonde, utterly unlike the sharp-witted and sharp-tongue blondes from the decade prior, Mae West or Jean Harlow. It was a time when feminism most nearly being justified in its claims.

Nonetheless it was a time when, in Science Fiction, even the writers who thought they were rebelling against the mainstream—Bob Heinlein springs to mind as an example—went along with the 1960’s ideas of domestic women or Bunny women.

I would have no problem whatever with the feminist demand for more strong female characters in Science Fiction, and only a technical problem concerning the demand for strong female characters in Fantasy, if the demand were honest. (The technical problem is the difference in upper body strength between swordsmen and swordswomen). If the goalposts move, the demand is not honest, and the motive for the demand is not what it seems.

Speaking of which, I did receive a number of pingbacks and comments which I, for courtesy’s sake, did not pass along to my readers, for these were from ill-wishers and prevaricators. I mention this not to complain, but only to make note of the fury combined with the alarmingly casual attitude toward truth which characterized any opposing discussion on this topic. I encountered no polite disagreement, no non-hysterical disagreement, no dignified disagreement, no non-fanatic disagreement, no one who made a disagreeing comment about something I actually said. As best I could tell, not a single one of these ill-wishers had read anything aside from the title of my essay. It was all witch-hunting. It was all barking at the moon like Nebuchadnezzar.

I suspect this is a minor example of a large and commonplace spirit of the age animating such nonsense. This leads me to suspect that much, if not most, of the calls for strong female characters are not actually calls for strong female characters at all, but something else.

What would a strong female actually be like?

Here is an example from the pen of Robert E Howard:

 

The woman on the horse reined in her weary steed. It stood with its legs wide-braced, its head drooping, as if it found even the weight of the gold-tasseled, red-leather bridle too heavy. The woman drew a booted foot out of the silver stirrup and swung down from the gilt-worked saddle. She made the reins fast to the fork of a sapling, and turned about, hands on her hips, to survey her surroundings.

They were not inviting. Giant trees hemmed in the small pool where her horse had just drunk. Clumps of undergrowth limited the vision that quested under the somber twilight of the lofty arches formed by intertwining branches. The woman shivered with a twitch of her magnificent shoulders, and then cursed.

She was tall, full-bosomed and large-limbed, with compact shoulders. Her whole figure reflected an unusual strength, without detracting from the femininity of her appearance. She was all woman, in spite of her bearing and her garments. The latter were incongruous, in view of her present environs. Instead of a skirt she wore short, wide-legged silk breeches, which ceased a hand’s breadth short of her knees, and were upheld by a wide silken sash worn as a girdle. Flaring-topped boots of soft leather came almost to her knees, and a low-necked, wide-collared, wide-sleeved silk shirt completed her costume. On one shapely hip she wore a straight double-edged sword, and on the other a long dirk. Her unruly golden hair, cut square at her shoulders, was confined by a band of crimson satin.

… this was Valeria of the Red Brotherhood, whose deeds are celebrated in song and ballad wherever seafarers gather.

Now, from my admittedly plebian and pulpish taste in fiction, this is seems more like a fantasy meant for boys with a pirate-girl fetish than a description of the historical Anne Bonnie.

pirate lass

Here is an image that fits the description more faithfully, albeit, I would say, just as clearly an example of cheesecake.

valeria

Be that as it may, Valeria is, by the express testimony of the text, both unusually strong yet feminine, and all woman, in spite of wearing breeches. Did I mention her hips were shapely, and her shoulders were magnificent? I suggest such characters were found periodically among the SFF of the pulp era.

In other words, Valeria is the kind of strong women that boys like. Not actually strong, but a girl in revealing clothing with a sword in her hand, who requires a rough and manly man to tame her wild heart.

In other words, this allegedly strong character is still open to the accusation of being a weak character on the grounds that she still plays a feminine role in the story.

I submit that any female character can be accused of being a weak character, precisely because the goalposts move, that is, precisely because the demand for ‘strength’ in female characters is dishonest.

nausicaalarge1Nausicaa from Miyazaki’s VALLEY OF THE WIND is a perfectly strong character who is brave, active, the center of the plot, the main driver of the plot, nobody’s fool, considerably higher in stature than a mere prize or reward for the hero to win. She is my exemplar of a strong female character who is not a artificially masculine. She is a princess, and she issues commands and is obeyed in a perfectly queenly fashion, she owns a rocket powered jet glider called a cloud climber or a maeve (depending on your translation) and she fires rocket-powered bullets, and is active, intelligent, athletic, and so on. But this is not the true genius of the character. The genius of the character is shown in a short scene in the beginning where when her finger is bitten by a tiny wild animal no bigger than a kitten. Instead of reacting with fear or annoyance, Nausicaa radiates a serenity that calms the creature, who, in remorse, begins to lick the finger where it just drew blood with its little pink tongue. This compassion and spiritual kinship with all living things, including the titanic and insectoid monsters of the all-destroying Toxic Jungle, is a spiritual strength in her that grows and grows in power as the story rolls toward what seems a tragic climax. In the final scene, it is not weapons, not even an ultimate weapon of destruction, that saves the day and changes the destiny of empires and kingdoms, but her self-sacrificing compassion on what to us at first would seem a hideous larva. But only at first. By the story’s end, we see through her eyes.

I myself have never heard Nausicaa being accused of being a weak character, but please note that the very thing which makes Buffy the Vampire Slayer allegedly a strong character, her physical strength and snarky attitude, are precisely the strength and the attitude missing from Nausicaa.

buffyangelI once heard Mr Joss Whedan in an interview discussing the origin of the character idea. He was weary of seeing scenes in monster movies where the blonde cheerleader Valley Girl wanders into a dark alley, is confronted by a vampire, and can do nothing. For reasons I cannot speculate, Mr Whedan did not think of making a Valley Girl carry a pistol whereby to defend herself (even an undead monster can be chopped off at the knees if your handgun has sufficient stopping power), but instead thought it would be a cute reversal of traditional roles if the cheerleader could take out a stake and drive it through the vampire’s heart. That way she is not the helpless victim. That way she does not need a man.

Then Mr Whedan writes a simply excellent show, truly one of my favorites—let no man dare to say I am not a fanboy of that show— but I notice with the slightest lift of an eyebrow that the main dramatic tension in the show was the romance, the girl’s love interest, Angel and Riley Finn and Spike. The traditional role is not reversed after all, is it?

Buffy must be saluted. She is the inspiration for an entire genre of fiction, the urban fantasy. Few characters can make that claim: Sherlock Holmes for detective stories, Juan Rico the starship trooper for Military SF, Harry Potter for the magical schoolkid genre, Frodo and his Fellowship of the Ring for the epic quest genre. A few others. But considering that Buffy is the very epitome, or so I assume, of strength in a strong female character, a feminist icon akin to Xena the Warrior Princess, why is her main dramatic point her love story? Could it be because she is a female character, and that there is something in the female genius which naturally inclines itself to love?

Buffy-Angel-buffy-the-vampire-slayer-1308503-1165-1450By way of contrast, I would list Katniss Everdine from the movie HUNGER GAMES as a relatively weak character – and here I am only talking about the movie, which I saw, and not the book, which I did not read. Aside from her extraordinary act of self sacrifice at the beginning of the film, for the rest of the film he is basically helpless, and shows very little initiative. Whether the character develops in the sequels, that I do not know, and make no comment about. She is, however, physically and morally brave, which is not a trait to be scoffed at for anyone living in a nation of physical and moral cowards.

Her Name is Catnip. Or something like that.

Something unclear in the movie is how any girl survives the first ten minutes of combat with relatively athletic young men of roughly the same age: the difference in aggression and fighting strength in an average sixteen year old boy and an average sixteen year old girl is immense. That is why the Romans did not stage gladiator fights between male and female slaves, or, if they did, we have no record of it. That is why boxing is not a unisex sport.

Katniss Everdine is what I would call weak because she cannot articulate the cause for which she fights. She is not fighting for truth, justice, and the American Way, nor is leading (yet) the rebellion; she is trying to stay alive. Oddly, had she been the only girl in a roster of boys, volunteering to take the place of her younger brother, the plot would have made more sense, because then it would have been a jack-and-the-giant story, with Katniss as Jack.

Weaker still is the character of Valeria mentioned above. She is the stuff of boyish daydreams, not a fully developed character at all. While established to be a ruthless, rough and hardy pirate queen, the equal of any man when it comes to climbing rigging, storming a city wall, or cutting down sea dogs in a sea fight, her role in the story is entirely feminine. Her main role in the story is for romantic interest and sex appeal. She is there to be menaced by the lusts of men, including Conan, to make dumb suggestions Conan wryly shoots down, and be afraid of things that don’t scare Conan, because, as a barbarian, he is such a badass. For all that, she is not a weak character, not a milksop or lily-livered, and is strong and hearty and bold as any soldier. It is just than next to Conan, any soldier would seem like a girl.

pirate_girlSorry, that was a pirate girl cheesecake picture. Here is another image of Valeria, drawn faithfully to Howard’s description. Judge for yourself whether or not this is meant to be a slice of cheesecake or not:

Valeria3

Podkayne of Mars from PODKAYNE OF MARS is a spunky and lovable teenager who dreams of being a space pilot. As the plot goes on, however, she takes no steps at all, not one, toward achieving this dream. Instead she gets abducted, saved by her brother, and then blown up by a bomb when going back into the villain’s lair for the cat or some other annoying fluffy critter. In the first draft, she died the death, and in the second, at the editor’s insisting, she was merely mostly dead. This teaches her psychotic supergenius younger brother to learn to love and be loved, or somesuch nonsense. And the moral of the story, placed in the mouth of the Uncle, tacked awkwardly onto the end of the book is that Podkayne’s Mom should have stayed home and raised her correctly.

PodkayneOfMars

Podkayne is a perfectly fine science fiction character. She does as much, or as little, as the Time Traveler from THE TIME MACHINE by Wells, or Professor Aronnax from TWENTY THOUSAND LEAGUES UNDER THE SEA. More to the point, she does as much, or as little, as Matt Dodson in SPACE CADET or Bill Lermer from FARMER IN THE SKY who are mostly observers rather that initiators of the action. But the fact that the space girl is blown up and never becomes either a space cadet like Matt nor a farmer owning his own land like Lermer should leave any feminist cold. Is the purpose in life of girls to be blowed up by bombs as an object lesson to psychotic younger brothers so they can learn to love and be loved? Hmmm.

stanger2Jill Boardman in STRANGER IN A STRANGE BED, buxom space nurse, becomes the lover and disciple of Michael Valentine Smith, the studly Man from Mars, and happily joins his harem of several lovers … and becomes a stripper. Yes, she takes off her clothing to excite the lusts of men for modest pay. They can stare at her boobs, which she bounces for their enjoyment. Such is the 1960’s version of women’s liberation. You’ve come a long way, baby.

The novel portrays this gross degradation as a dignified profession, whereas preaching the Gospel is portrayed as charlatanry less honest than selling used cars. Yet, had you asked, I am certain Mr Heinlein would have described himself as an ardent supporter of women’s liberation.

Compared to this junk, Valeria the Pirate Queen with the shapely hips is practically a nuanced and three dimensional character as Lady Macbeth. But could someone claim, with perfect justice, that Jill is a strong character? She is certainly witty, brave as a marine, and kidnaps the Man from Mars out from the clutches of the tyrannous world-state. Could someone else claim she was a weak character? Yes, and with equal justice, if not more so. She is lonely schoolboy’s idea of a strong and independent woman, that is, a woman with all the virtues but chastity and modesty, independent enough to use contraception, and strong enough to violate the rules of chastity, presumably, in his daydreams, with the lonely schoolboy.

friday

I should add the third example of Friday from her eponymous book, but there is too much about that book and that character I find personally distasteful. Let me just say that she combines the worst characteristics of physical strength—she can beat up a marine guard—Playboy bunny looks, and an odd desire both to marry and have a family, and to sleep around like a minx in heat.

If you have not read FRIDAY, you can always watch DARK ANGEL by James Cameron. The main character, Max, is a personal favorite of mine. Let no one believe I dismiss or dislike the show. But I do note that she is a Friday style woman: sexy and adorable, and she goes into heat, so that she can both beat up Marine guards with her biogenetically enhanced superhuman strength, and sleep around. You’ve come a long way, baby. The writers there perform the opposite trick as Robert E Howard. To make the girl Max the manly character, James Cameron puts the male lead in a wheelchair, so that he has no possibility of being either the main romantic interest nor being the Riley Finn or Steve Trevor character.

dark-angel-jessica-alba-4401551qtree

By a Riley Finn, I mean simply that a writer who makes his alleged strong female character physically strong, strong in masculine ways, the writer has no use for a male romantic lead, unless he is superhuman, such as Conan or Angel. Riley Finn was despised by the fans for much the same reason that Steve Trevor is forgotten.

No writer can write a man who swoons over the strength of a superheroine or vampire-huntress, admires her knowledge of French wines and Japanese karate, and find himself swept off his feet by her carried back to her magnificent castle, married in a splendid but secret ceremony, ravished to within an inch of his life, and make it seem other than a satire. No writer has this power because that is not the way human nature works.

How does nature work? Women like men who are virile, vigorous and potent. They like men who are confident, decisive, courageous, and assertive. They want a man who fights. They like strong men. Look at the cover of a trashy romance novel if you don’t believe me.

bodice rippersAnd they like guys with no shirts.

bodice-ripperOr with no pants. More truth is held in the pages of trashy romance novels than in all the worthless books penned by college professors.

Men like women who are nubile, fertile and fecund. They want a girl worth fighting for. They want beauty in body but loyalty in spirit. They want a woman who has faith in him and who keeps faith with him.

Let us look at a he-man magazine to confirm this.

mensHmmm. Obviously, I am wrong about men. What we really like is beating mad weasels to death with our bare hands while naked in a pool.

Mort KunstlerApparently what we men also like is fighting sharks, women in bathing suits, lost treasure, fighting undersea robots, women not in bathing suits, headhunters, and fighting alligators. Obviously getting wet is a big part of our lives.

Why does nature saddle us with these (to a feminist) uncouth and inconvenient urges where different things attract the different sexes to each other?

It is one of the dubious joys of the modern age that otherwise sober men must take the time to explain the obvious, over and over again, to those ideologically committed to denying the obvious.

It is obvious that men and women are different both in fine and in gross.

(I read with some skeptical bitterness that when neurologists first started publicly admitting that there were neurochemical differences in brain structure between males and females, Gloria Steinem said that social conditioning could overcome these innate genetic predilections.  I understand that the Left also says that homosexual attraction is caused by innate genetic predilections, but that to use any form of social conditioning to overcome such predilections is illegal in California. Consistency is not the strong suit of the Left.)

Because of these differences between the sexes, the characteristics of sexual attraction in men and women must be opposite and complementary in order for it to be sexual attraction.

Do I need to repeat that in shorter words for the intellectuals to grasp it?

Girls want strong men because strength in men, brute muscle power and leadership ability, is a primary sexual distinguishing characteristic related to the sexual process. Boys want faithful women because fidelity in women is a primary sexual distinguishing characteristic related to domestic life and the demands of domestic life.

But a writer writing an adventure story or a drama that wants to challenge or ignore the basic difference between what men and women find attractive in each other faces a paradox. How is he to make it dramatic?

Now, keep in mind that men and women can admire each other for non-sexual reasons. I am a great admirer of Margaret Thatcher, for example, or Mother Theresa, who are both world-magnitude leaders, one of political and the other of spiritual authority. Any tinge of sexual attraction toward these women from me would be grotesque.

But in a story, especially in an adventure story, the needs of drama want to introduce an element of romance even if the writers at first do not want one there. Romance is as dramatic as death, or more so. It is nearly impossible to keep out of story telling, despite brave efforts by H.G. Wells and Jules Verne. Brave but futile. Note that every later retelling or movie version of any of their tales always introduces a love interest. The movie version of FIRST MEN IN THE MOON introduced a female stowaway.

FIRST MEN MOON a5The movie version of JOURNEY TO THE CENTER OF THE EARTH, has the Junoesque Arlene Dahl, likewise.

dahlThe movie version of CLIPPER OF THE CLOUDS, which was named for its sequel, MASTER OF THE WORD, likewise.

Examples could be multiplied endlessly. I think only TWENTY THOUSAND LEAGUES UNDER THE SEA by Disney did not intrude an apocryphal female love interest. Hence my conclusion is that if there is no love interest at first, the pressure of the needs of drama always urges one be introduced later, in any sequel or retelling.

If I may use an example from a cartoon, just to dispel anyone’s idea that I have refined tastes in the matter: I am a great fan of Disney’s KIM POSSIBLE. I love that show. Every element is perfect. Teen superheroine Kim Possible is the daughter of a rocket scientist and a brain surgeon. On her website she boasts that she can do anything, and so instead of getting the babysitting or yard working jobs she supposed, foreign governments and major corporations hire her to solve crimes, stop revolutions, and track down supervillains. The show’s supervisors told the writers that, as a Disney show, they needs must put in a cute pet sidekick like the raccoon of Pocahontas or the flounder of Ariel, and the writers subverted the paradigm by introducing a naked mole rat. Who is also a supergenius. Kim Possible’s comedy relief sidekick and Sancho Panza is named Ron Stoppable.

kp

Unfortunately, the needs of drama interfered with this perfect balance of elements in the last season, when some nitwit decided that Kim Possible should fall in love, not with the handsome and competent Will Du, agent of Global Justice, nor with Josh Mankey, the boy on whom she has a legitimate crush, but with Ron, her sidekick. (Who, by the way, was in love with and loved by the alluring and exotic highschool ninja girl and exchange student, Yori).

It is unsettling and stupid, as stupid as deciding that alluring and snarktastic supervillainess Shego would go for her freaky blue supervillain boss Dr Drakken rather than for the rich and handsome and stump-stupid but devotedly romantic Sr Senior, Jr.

shego

It nearly ruined the show to pair the heroine with the comedy relief, because the needs of drama require that the romantic male lead save the girl to win the girl, something the comedy relief cannot do. Otherwise no one can tell why the girl likes the guy. He must appear virile and vigorous and potent, remember? But the fans complained, not without some justice, in the last episode of the last season when Ron saves the day and saves a suddenly helpless Kim Possible when in every previous episode she was able to do everything whereas he was the ineffectual sidekick who comedic antics involved running in circles with his pants on fire, screaming.

But the writers almost had no choice. Romance is innately dramatic because the whole life and future happiness of the characters hangs in the balance, and it is something everyone in the audience over the age of seven can understand and sympathize with. The romantic lead has to be a superior guy. If he is of lower social rank than the girl, or less wealthy, he has to be higher in some other quality that she needs more, even if it is only pluck or impudent daring (cf. Jasmine falling for Aladdin).

This means that superheroes can fall in love with normal muggle women, as when Kal-El of Krypton falls for Lois Lane, but that Supergirl cannot fall in love with Dick Malverine but needs a superhero to be her beau, like Querl Dox or Dick Grayson. And Wonder Woman should definitely dump Steve Trevor for Bruce Wayne.

Supergirl_Unbound_001(If you asked who  Dick Malverine is, he is the utterly forgettable male equivalent of Lois Lane or Lana Lang who was always trying to prove that Linda Lee was Supergirl. The dynamic of the plot tension there should have been the same, but since the sexes were switched, it did not work. In real life, there is some drama to a woman trying to find out a man’s secret, especially if she has marital designs on him. It does not work the other way around, the drama is lost, and the guy looks weak and foolish.)

Does that seem unfair? The story logic requires that if a superheroine falls for a guy, he has to be virile and potent in relation to her, in some way her superior, so that she has something she thinks is sexy to admire and adore; and likewise she, even if she is physically stronger and shows directness and leadership and cooks outdoors and has great clumps of underarm hair and in every way is masculine and manly, she has to be shown as devoted, because fidelity is what sexually attracts men to women.

The old cliché of rescuing a damsel in distress is based on the idea that a woman rescued from danger by a man will be devoted to him, because ingratitude in such life or death situations was unthinkable, particularly for an admirable female lead.

Again, the logic of Political Correctness requires that men and women not be complementary because the concept of complementary strengths and weakness is not a concept that Political Correctness can admit, lest it be destroyed. The concept of complementary virtues undermines the concept of envy, and Political Correctness is nothing but politicized fury based on politicized envy. We can define Political Correctness as the attempt to express fury and envy via radical changes to legal and social institutions.

Hence, the Politically Correct writer attempting to make the female ‘strong’ cannot make her strong in the particular feminine way of, for example, Nausicaa, because that would be the same as admitting that there is a particular nature of male and female, which are different and complementary, which, as I said above, undermines the envy-fury on which Political Correctness is based.

So the logic of Political Correctness directly defies the logic of drama. The more you have of one, the less you have of the other.

The Political Correctness you have, the less Science Fiction you have, because Politically Correct science is Junk Science.

Political Correctness requires the women not to be of complementary strength to men, that is, not strong in a feminine way, because that would legitimize femininity. Remember, feminism is the foe of femininity, hence of love and romance.

Instead, Political Correctness requires the female to be as strong as a man, as good as a man, in the very areas men are good at and want to be good at. It is a deliberately unnatural pose. The women character have to be portrayed as the types of character female readers, by and large, do not want to be like or to read about, and the female characters have to do things women by and large do not attempt because they don’t create a big thrill in the feminine heart, or create many bragging rights. The male characters are basically extraneous.

Can it be done? Sure. Writers are endlessly inventive, and we get to set the situation and the plot and, in science fiction, we get to set the laws of nature, too. So the basic physical limitations of the female physique in real life need not hinder us in science fiction situations, because your heroine can be from Krypton, or armed with a phaser weapon, or have cat-girl genes spliced into her DNA, or be an Amazon. Second, the writer gets to set the period and the genre. No one can claim that Hermione Grangier is in any way a second class citizen of Hogwarts, because, like a detective in a detective novel, physical strength and fighting prowess are not the main point of a magical school-chums novel.

sleeping-beauty-dragon

Third, if your superheroine is stronger than any normal man, and does not need Prince Charming to settle the hash of the evil dragon, but can wield the sword herself, you can either leave out your male love interest, or you can, Anita Blake style, make him superhuman also. This, of course, is a sly cheat, because it put the girl back in the position of being allured to a dangerous male figure who is more powerful than she, so your vampire huntress falling for a fallen angel (or whatever) is in the same dainty shoes as the spitfire Irish lass kidnapped by the ruthless but devilishly handsome pirate Black Jamie (or whoever) which we all see in the Bodice Ripper racks at the paperback bookstore.

Paranormal Romance, in other words, is an example of the logic of drama subverting (or perhaps superverting) the logic of Political Correctness. It allows the writer to eat her cake and have it too: she can make her warrior-princess or vampire huntress as tough and strong in any way she likes, as tough as Scarlet O’Hara vowing as God is her witness never to go hungry again, and then also bring in a supernatural version of Rhett Butler, and she can retell the story of Beauty and the Beast while retelling GONE WITH THE WIND, and make her man a human being. (Since young men are often ill-reared these days, this is not as far from real life as it once was.)

Another solution is to make the warrior woman into a sex babe, so that if she is not feminine and attractive in demeanor and words, her luscious body betrays her, especially if she is wearing a halter top and spray-on leather pants. This approach turns the strong female character into a figure of sexual fetish, and it titillates the boy audience while apparently satisfying the female audience looking for an action heroine who does not need a man to kill her vampires for her.

The problem with such characters is that the logic of Political Correctness has been subverted by the needs of drama at the expense of all realism. You end up with scenes like I mentioned in a previous essay, with a hulking huge Hawkeye of the Avengers kicking wispy little sexdoll Black Widow in the face, and both boys and girls get used to the idea of boys kicking girls in the face like it was normal, and, just as bad, both boys and girls get used to the idea that the only way for a girl to be attractive is to dress like the Catwoman. That is fine if you have a perfect figure like a 1950 cheesecake model, but otherwise it basically robs women of an entire arsenal of feminine wiles to use on the menfolk, and silences an entire social vocabulary unspoken signs of feminine dignity.

You also end up with warrior women who should be armed and armored like Joan of Arc dressed in microbikinis that would embarrass a stripper.

armor-11

And any feminist worth her salt should be able to accuse, with much justice, the fetishistic ninja-babe superheroine archetype as being a weak female character. Such characters are nothing more than action models, eye candy, male fantasy figures.

KYE345409A-1hr

And yet all of these characters can be accused of being weak, for the reasons I said at considerable length above. And if the character has no weaknesses, she can be accused of being a Mary Sue.

Why is this? Because, at first, the cry for strong female characters is perfectly reasonable and perfectly welcome.

To use another example which betrays my low taste, in the second season or so of NARUTO our feisty girl-ninja Sakura is left with nothing to do. She simply cannot fight as well as the boys, and the writers had her not do anything, despite that she was the third member of Team Love Triangle, along with Naruto the brash main character in love with her, Sasuke with whom she is in love. For the life of me, I cannot figure out why she is crushing on Sasuke. He is merely dark and handsome with a troubled past, tormented by inner demons, a dashing rebel who plays by his own rules. Go figure.

sakura wallpapers 2

But the girl ninja was useless until the writers wised up and powered her up in the next season, giving her not only magic healing powers, but magic super strength, which make a nice outward sign of her inner exasperation, so she could create an earthquake with her magic ninja punch. It gave her something to do in the plot, unlike (if you look above) the characters added to MASTER OF THE WORLD and JOURNEY TO THE CENTER OF THE EARTH, which intruded a romantic subplot where none was needed nor wanted, and the female characters there had nothing to do. They initiated no action and solved no problems.

If that is what the cry for stronger female characters want, more power to them, and I add my voice to theirs.

Penelope of Ithaca and Clytemnestra of Mycenae and Helen of Troy are not insignificant characters with nothing to do, nor is Deborah in the Book of Judges. Nor is Ximena from El Cid. Neither is Guinevere of Camelot, even if she never fights a joust while disguised as a boy. Neither is Olivia from TWELFTH NIGHT, even if she does fight a duel while disguised as a boy. Neither is Bradamante of ORLANDO FURIOSO or Britomart of FAERIE QUEENE even if she fights jousts and duels while not disguised at all. There are plenty of examples from ancient and classical sources to follow. I cheer on such efforts.

But look again. If I am cheering on such effort, why am I getting hate mail from Political Correctors, along with anyone else who says what I say?

Because Penelope and Clytemnestra and Helen and Deborah and Guinevere are all romantic figures. Ximena is perhaps the most romantic of all, a woman of noble birth who loves and loses all because she loves the Cid, but loves honor more.

soph0312_nogadashin

The Martial Maids, while many a feminist still admires them, I have heard dismissed because they are depicted as outliers, that is, extraordinary because a woman is performing feats of arms which would be ordinary if done by a man. I do not know is this is a mainstream criticism or not, but it strikes me as telling.

The calls for strong female characters is like the call for more environmental purity and cleanliness. In the 1950’s (ironically, the same period when women were being treated is a less dignified way than their mothers) there was pollution in the air and in the streams that formed a danger to public health. Some reasonable laws were made to curb the problem, and the problem was solved except in areas of the country administered by Democrats, and then unreasonable laws were made, and then slightly insane laws, and now we live under totally nutastic barking-mad at the moon bat-guano crazy laws, which have declared human exhalation and cow farts to be pollutants.

It was reasonable at first. The demand was satisfied. There are no plenty of female characters in books and films these days, many of them quite well written.

And then the demands became unreasonable, then became slightly insane, and are rapidly becoming barking mad. Why is this?

Because the demands are not honestly made. They are made for the sake of making a demand, not made for the sake of satisfying a demand.

Any female character can be accused of being weak. ANY ONE. The trick is to have your female characters be good characters, having central roles in the plot, and reasonable character arcs, and as many vices and virtues as the logic of drama and your inner burning vision demand.

Ignore whether she is strong or weak. It is like worrying about whether your male character is winsome, devoted and loves babies. He needs a reasonable amount of devotion to be a hero, but it cannot be his main point, because in real life girls look for strength in men first, leadership, trustworthiness, that sort of thing. Even shallow women look for outward signs of competence and strength, like fancy cars and smoothness of wit.

Likewise, strength in female characters is not what makes them dramatic and memorable, but fidelity and compassion do.

As God is my witness 2What makes Scarlet O’Hara one of the most easily recognized heroines of all time, despite the obvious selfishness and shallowness of the character? It is her fidelity, no, not to a man (she weds idly and yearns for Ashley) but to Tara, the land. Her faith in the land allows her to survive the War and the Reconstruction.

Scarlett, despite being selfish and shallow, shines with these other virtues. Commitment. Fidelity. Faithfulness. Maintaining hope when hope is gone. Having the strength to carry on.

That is something women do better than men. We males tend to break when our brittle pride is shattered. Women handle disappointment and defeat better. (Consider what a disappointment most men are, I am sure there is a logic to that, too.)

So ignore the demands for strong female characters. You cannot satisfy them.

You can satisfy your readers, though, by making your heroine interesting. Nay, make her fascinating.

Make your heroine as fascinating as Miyasaki’s Nausicaa, or Homer’s; or Dante’s Beatrice, or as fascinating as Deborah, Clytemnestra, Helen, Penelope, Camilla, Britomart, Bradamante, and you will have readers centuries to come, or millennia, still discussing her; or make her as interesting as Katniss or Hermione or Scarlet O’Hara, and you will be a best seller and have your books made into movies.

A closing note on hate mail. I said I would return to this point.

Why in the world would anyone in his right mind pen a poisonous letter on this topic? I am not trying to save Science Fiction from Strong Female Characters. The idea is ridiculous, so ridiculous that I honestly thought nobody, not even a humorless Political Correction Officer would take it seriously. The title is meant as an obvious joke.

It is as if I were to say we should stop having Basque Characters, or Albigensians, or Left-handed Wesleyians. No matter what I or anyone said about the type of characters I or anyone preferred, if the demand were honest,  no one would give a tinker’s damn about it one way or another.

No one would give a tinker’s damn because readers who wanted character of a certain type would seek out writers who wrote characters of that type, and readers who wanted something else would seek out writers writing something else.

But the demand is not honest. It is not even close. The demand is that female characters of which some tone-deaf yet artistically and spiritually dead sexual neurotics disapprove be swept off the bookshelves and into the memory hole. The demand is political, that is, it is a call for a uniform change in the power relations of the society. The demand is that society change its tastes, change its values, and do so collectively, as a unit, permitting no dissent.

The demand is not on we writers, my dear readers, but on you readers.

The demand made by these subhuman genetically defective control freaks is that YOU the readers, stop liking the books and stories you like, books with females realistic or unrealistic as you prefer, and start liking the books and stories which these genetically defective control freaks demand you should like, in the name of the glorious cause of whatever the glorious cause is this week.

The demand is that you be ashamed of liking popular books and stories, that you be ashamed of nature, ashamed of romance, ashamed of love stories, ashamed of superhero stories, and so on, ad nauseam.

You see, you and I and every sane human is willing to live and let live, and if you want to read trashy bodice rippers and I want to read about space princesses while our neighbor wants to read stories about he-men wrestling ponds of flesh-eating weasels, to each his own. If I write the story I want to write, and even put the odd space princess in it, either the story on its own artistic merits or entertainment value, if any, finds a fit audience or not, as the sovereign will of the readership demands, without imposing on or being imposed upon by others who write and read stories of another kind.

You must understand that you, O my masters, are the sovereigns here. What the readers read is what the writers write and the booksellers sell.

The rebels and the subversives of the Glorious Cause of Political Correctness are not about overthrowing the sovereign power of the state, or not just about that. It is also about overthrowing the sovereign power of the culture, O my masters.

They want to overthrow YOU.

They have only one weapon, which is the unearned moral superiority they pretend to have, and the unearned guilt which they throw onto you.

The serpent cannot force the apple down Eve’s fair throat. All he can do is make her feel ashamed for being so naive as to obey the commands of right reason. The snake tells her she is stupid for thinking that right reason was right.

Likewise, here, the harpies shriek that you are stupid for wanting to read a story where Rhett carries a struggling Scarlett up to the nuptial bedroom, rather than Scarlett carrying Rhett.

Unearned moral superiority for them. Unearned guilt for you. That is their only weapon. Merely pointing it out, naming it by its right name, is enough to disarm it.

Science fiction does not need to be saved from strong female characters. It needs to be saved from Political Correctness, which makes a demand that all stories be uniform, and all serve the Glorious Cause, and become propaganda told for the purpose of social engineering, not stories told to glorify the beauties and horrors of life.

It is, in fact, a demand that stories not be stories at all.

It is a demand that we wreck our culture, ruin our lives, and damn our souls. Stories are just the smallest part of it, and science fiction stories are smaller than that. Stories save souls, and give strength to sanity: for tales, even the simplest, even the shallowest, can refresh our faith in truth, in beauty, and in virtue. In stories, the muses bring us wine from heaven.

Political Correctness serves politics, that is, the power struggle between factions seeking to govern our laws and customs. Art serves truth. Do you wonder at the venom of the struggle? Political Correction Officers attempt to mock and destroy even the concept of truth. Political Correctness is the foe of all truth, all beauty, all virtue. Their ambition is immense, nay, awe-inspiring: They want to drown the universe in excrement.

The sole weapon of the Political Correction Officers is to make the innocent feel guilty by making a reasonable demand followed by an unreasonable demand, a demand you can never satisfy.

We must save the world, and, more importantly, science fiction from that.

I close with words from the Pen of Tom Simon:

The whole point of Political Correctness is that it’s impossible to be politically correct: someone always has a free pass to attack you for something. Just as the whole point of Sustainability is that nothing is ever really sustainable, so someone can always attack you for insufficient dedication to Mother Gaia. Modern Leftism is not about doing what is right; it is about believing that everybody else is wrong, and always having a stick handy to beat anyone you want to beat.

43 Comments

  1. Comment by Pierce O.:

    “Something unclear in the movie is how any girl survives the first ten minutes of combat with relatively athletic young men of roughly the same age: the difference in aggression and fighting strength in an average sixteen year old boy and an average sixteen year old girl is immense.”

    I believe the only ones who survive are those who, like Katniss, get the heck out of Dodge and head for the woods, which offer a more level playing field, or those who are from the wealthier districts, who have unspoken but existing alliances with the other wealthy districts and are secretly selected and trained by their district prior to the games. The other girls are all killed pretty quickly (also, not all of the games begin with the tributes in melee range of one another). But, as you say, this remains unexplained in the movie. Also, according to several of my friends, the sequel’s movie adaptation is far superior to the first movie (and one claimed superior to the book), so it may be worth a watch when it comes to the dollar theaters or Netflix.

    • Comment by Mary:

      Probably luck of the draw has had some years in which a 17 year old girl heads out against mostly 12, 13, 14 year old boys. There’s the career tributes, of course, but maybe they kill each other off.

  2. Comment by Pierce O.:

    To make the girl Max the manly character, James Cameron puts the male lead in a wheelchair, so that he has no possibility of being either the main romantic interest nor being the Riley Finn or Steve Rogers character.

    From this, it sounds like James Cameron did a much better job writing a strong female character with Ripley in Aliens. He gave her Newt, which gave her a very feminine reason to fight throughout the movie (even more so in the director’s cut), and teased Cpl. Hicks as a romantic interest for her, allowed him to be a manly space marine worthy of admiration, but cleverly injured him in the line of duty before the climax so that Ripley would be the one to face the Queen.

    Now that I think about it, she may actually be a genuinely strong female character that is admired by the media, as she regularly tops “Top 50 Action/Sci-fi/ Women” type lists, usually for her characterization in Aliens and Alien, since nobody wants to talk about the other two movies. Now if only we could get Nausicaa up there too.

    • Comment by John C Wright:

      I have no problem listing Max or Ripley as strong female characters, who do deeds of derring do as well as the menfolk do. I merely note that the Red Lensman and Jirel of Jory, or other heroines from the 1950’s and 40’s, did likewise. The idea that this is new is a myth.

  3. Comment by Andrew Brew:

    Hear, hear. Soviet realism is a poor basis for a universal aesthetic. And you have nailed why. It is not directed at a result, per se, at solving a problem or righting a wrong. It is aimed at destroying all truth, all virtue, all character, leaving no basis for resistance to the most insane demands.

  4. Comment by Kairos:

    Joss Whedon made more than his share of girl-power foul-ups with Buffy, but when it comes to the character requiring a love story, I think that has less to do with her being female and more with the problem of the genre itself – there’s always a love interest. Take a look at Buffy’s closest equivalent, Angel: he’s the male lead of his show, he’s unable to find happiness in sex lest he loses his soul, and his entire character concept is that he’s still in love with (overwhelmingly off-screen) Buffy. By the third season, the writers pair him up with Cordelia in spite of all that, not bothering to explain why either of them suddenly felt their strong platonic friendship was insufficient. Why? Because the network demanded romance.

    Granted, that’s just one love story, while Buffy was required to perpetually cycle through them. In the comics continuation, she’s still dating and we’re still getting teased about whether she’ll ultimately choose Angel or Spike. No networks to obey anymore, but it’s fairly clear that this time around, the romance is here because the fans want it. That’s not to condemn the fans; God knows I want it myself. But the story would have been best served if Buffy and Angel had both admitted, back when the shows split, that they couldn’t be together but weren’t willing to replace each other with second fiddles. Could it be that Buffy needs a man not because she’s a woman, but because, being a woman, she attracts a female viewership?

    As for Katniss, I’d say that her helplessness is part of the story. Remember that aside from her sacrifice at the beginning, she comes up with one daring idea at the end and threatens to ruin the Hunger Games through suicide. That one act of rebellion has consequences throughout the rest of the series, and she never stops thinking about how trapped she is and how little she’s able to accomplish on her own. Personally, I don’t find her weak, but I don’t think I’d get there without reading the other books – they’re riddled with plot holes, but the problems I had with the social and moral messages at the beginning had a tendency to be resolved as I kept reading.

  5. Comment by Stephen J.:

    “James Cameron puts the male lead in a wheelchair, so that he has no possibility of being [the] Steve Rogers character. …Riley Finn was despised by the fans for much the same reason that Steve Rogers is forgotten. …And Wonder Woman should definitely dump Steve Rogers for Bruce Wayne.”

    You were confusing me here until this last item, when I suddenly realized that I think you mean Steve Trevor instead of Steve Rogers. (Captain America forgotten? Wonder Woman should dump him? — Although they do live in different universes, and long-distance relationships do have a tendency to fall apart.)

  6. Comment by Stephen J.:

    “The demand made… is that YOU the readers, stop liking the books and stories you like[.]“

    If I were making a case for a sane application of this principle (I agree in practice that most “representational justice” advocates have gone beyond effective sanity in their advocacy), I might fall back on the nutrition analogy again.

    If one grants the idea of mental content for the brain as equivalent to nutritional content for the body, and our entertainment reading/viewing seen as the equivalent of snacks and desserts — things eaten primarily for pleasure rather than function or content — then a sane RJ critic might acknowledge that nobody can realistically demand that we stop liking “snacks/desserts.” However, I can very easily see how this critic might complain that:

    (a) there are only so many snacks/desserts one can eat before one gets fat, sick and black-toothed, especially if one has gotten out of healthy consumption habits;

    (b) even among snacks/desserts, some are less sugary and unhealthy than others and it is worth trying to change our eating habits to prefer the better to the worse, especially as (a point true in itself) people who get hung up on a particular unhealthy pleasure are likelier to seek out successively more intense and more unhealthy doses of it; and

    (c) some snacks/desserts are falsely or ignorantly marketed as healthier than they are — some, in fact, are even touted as the equivalent of a full healthy meal, despite containing toxically high streaks of sugar or alcohol, and people advocating these can cause many others to eat themselves sick in the belief they’re looking after their health.

    Thus, our sane RJ critic is, by his or her own lights, not so much demanding that people stop liking what they like, but informing people why and how the things they like are damaging them more than they realize, that they are overindulging in those things, and calling for people to make a conscious effort to try to satisfy nutrition as well as taste. All of which in itself is a reasonable case to make, in principle.

    The difficulty — and the eventual insanity — kicks in when the RJ advocates realize that what they are ultimately trying to do is sell people on choosing broccoli over chocolate, a case which will always fail more than they think can be afforded: making virtue attractive is difficult to begin with, and browbeating a free fellow adult with his or her own preferences into it is even more difficult. The consequent frustration then drives them to do two things:
    1) Try to create something like chocolate-flavoured broccoli, which does not really serve the culinary purpose of either component and only appeals to a minority of twisted or jaded tastes — these are the characters like the fetishized ninja-babes or the couples with implausible dynamics — and then, when this fails to sell sufficiently to change public tastes and habits;
    2) Start flogging numerical quotas as guilt-trip tools for reading selection rather than trying to cook broccoli well enough to make it tasty and nutritious.

    • Comment by John C Wright:

      You analogy seems to incorporate the basic point I wanted to make, which is that the demand is at first perfectly reasonable, and only then becomes barking mad.

      • Comment by Stephen J.:

        Granted, although I was looking at it from the perspective of what the audience is being asked to stop reading/viewing rather than the perspective of what creators are being asked to start making, or start making more of.

        This is partly because one of the greatest cognitive-dissonance tensions I see in SJ (“social justice”)-minded fandom these days is the acute conflict between what fans feel they ought to like/see, or claim to want to see, and the fact that the stuff that continues to grab the majority of audience share — even among the SJ’ers themselves — is stuff that they think they ought not to like/see. Several of the most popular SF TV franchises right now — Supernatural, Doctor Who, Sherlock, the Marvel Cinematic Universe — are numerically very dominated by white male characters for precisely the reasons you cite that women like to read about/see these characters.

        Which is one of the reasons why the single biggest step SJ fans could take to change what mass media creators produce — i.e. ruthlessly and rigorously choose which entertainment to buy solely for how well it represents non-traditional (i.e. non-male, non-white, non-straight, non-developed-world, explicitly non-Judeo Christian) characters, so as to make diversity the most profitable alternative — is one that I quite simply do not think they will ever be able to do, for the same reason their current tactics keep failing: People cannot be morally browbeaten into truly changing their entertainment tastes, because the very act of choosing entertainment out of moral obligation almost always ruins it as entertainment.

  7. Comment by Sylvie D. Rousseau:

    Thanks to you for another demonstration of how dishonest Political Correctoids are. It would be better for them to be just plain stupid, but it does not seem to be the case, alas!

    A recurrent typo: compliments are welcome in male-female relationships, but not too much of them, and often quite the contrary to make for some drama in the romance. Then I suppose that “complimentary” (6 occurrences) should rather read “complementary.”

  8. Comment by JJ Brannon:

    While I am enamored of Gone with the Wind, Melanie is the heroine — and Christ figure — of the novel, not Scarlet who is an anti-heroine [well-matched to quixotic anti-hero Rhett Butler].

    Reading GwtW is like reading the entire series of Flash Thompson Adventure Comics and only at the end realizing the mild, milquetoast supporting-character Peter Parker is the mainspring for all that worthy happens.

    JJB

    • Comment by John C Wright:

      Your point is well taken, and I wish I had thought of Melanie in my essay, because she is an example of an even stronger character than Scarlett. I would venture to say that Melanie is an excellent example of what I am calling the feminine strength, that is, a fidelity and devotion. Unlike Scarlett, Melanie is constant and devout throughout, and to everyone.

  9. Comment by Mary:

    Actually, having the heroine rescue her True Love has a long standing tradition.

    * Burd Janet rescuing Tam Lin from the — ehem — Good Folk. Or Kate Crackernuts, the Prince
    * A heroine of variable names rescues Young Beichan (himself having a few variant names himself)
    * “East of the Sun and West of the Moon”, “The Black Bull of Norroway”, “The Enchanted Pig”, “The Brown Bear of Norway”, “The Three Gold Nuts”, “The White Wolf”, “The Singing, Springing Lark”, “The Sprig of Rosemary”, and “The Daughter of the Skies” ALL turn on the heroine going on a long quest and tracking down her husband to save him from an unwanted marriage.
    * Or the girl knows the secret of how the hero can do the impossible tasks: “The Grateful Prince”, “The Battle of the Birds”, “Snow-White-Fire-Red”, “The Mastermaid”

    The secret of it that they rescue the guy in girlie ways.

    • Comment by Pierce O.:

      Very true! The leftists probably still hate them though because they end in happy marriages.
      If I recall correctly, even John Carter, Warlord of Barsoom, had to be rescued from the dungeons of the Therns by Thuvia of Ptarth, and the Buck Rogers comic I received on free comic book day had Wilma Deering zooming around with her rocket belt to save Buck & co. from mind ray torture or something. Pulp scifi is keeping the tradition alive!

  10. Comment by gcm2:

    “What would a strong female actually be like?”

    Simple–whatever manner the author dictates. That is their literary and creative prerogative. To the gatekeepers of both “pink” and “blue” sci-fi, be mindful of the old adage “the customer is always right”. There is an audience for what “truly” constitutes hero and heroine.

    In the end, writers are going to write, and readers are going to read. An entire six-part series of “he said, she said” nonsense. I just have to shake my head and laugh at this discussion when there are more important matters in the world that we ought to be focusing on.

    • Comment by John C Wright:

      I am a writer talking about my life’s work. Feel free to focus on other matters, if you wish, but it might not be wise for me.

      Even so, the discussion here was between those who say the customer is always right, and those who say the customer — no matter what the customers say — is always wrong. Was that point unclear?

  11. Comment by oddy:

    Yes, Melanie has always been my favorite from Gone with the Wind. In the movie she is portrayed brilliantly.
    That is a good point about Buffy always having a love interest. I always hated Riley and so did my little sister and my Mom. Riley was a super soldier at first, so he did have a little super power. But, he was no match for Buffy. Then he lost his little power and it was ridiculous. Plus, Riley was just unattractive altogether. I found it unbearable when Buffy was blamed for the failure of the relationship when it was obviously Riley’s own weakness in every respect (including cheating on her) that ended the relationship. We can’t forget that Buffy also always relied on Giles as her Father figure.
    In Angel, him and Cordelia didn’t really bother me much because it was not a huge part of the show. Angel was alone most of the time which was how it should be. There was some love story between Wesley and Fred (girl heh) and then Fred and Gunn. Angel was the loner and I do think it would have been better for him to have stayed alone thinking of Buffy. I liked Buffy and Spike though so I can’t say I would have wanted Buffy to stay alone. :)
    I hope you are kidding about wondering why Sakura has it bad for Sasuke ;)
    Katniss is a weak character in the first movie. I didn’t relate to her at all. Especially in the books, in her inner monologue, I wondered if she was a sociopath. The second movie is superior to the first movie and to the books.

    • Comment by John C Wright:

      I am totally kidding about Sasuke. He is the magical ninja boy version of Rhett Butler crossed with James Dean.

      • Comment by GATO:

        And his brother, Itachi? Even more epic. That Ninja clan is basically a gene pool for misunderstood bad boys; red eyes, dark hair, brooding… say what you will about Naruto, they know how to communicate a character both visually, aurally and dramatically. It can be cheesy at times (fanservice related perhaps) but overall I was very satisfied with all of the Naruto that I watched (I skipped the filler in the first season.)

        All of the females are pretty excellent in that series, I think, though perhaps the style is too simple for some. I keep rooting for Hinata to do something worthwhile, even though like Lucy with the football, the authors keep deferring that satisfaction. I mean, she does save Naruto, but it’s kind of … well … hilariously incompetent.

        Great stuff! I’ll keep it mind for some characters we’re working on for our games.

        • Comment by John C Wright:

          I am a total Hinata + Naruto shipper fan. She does pretty well in the episode where the team is fighting bug-ninja. While I intend to get back to it, I stopped watching shortly after Sasuke kills Ochimaru, undermining one of the greatest villains ever, and deflating that whole plot arc. I am hoping it will turn out that Ochimaru is only Mostly Dead, and has taken control of Sasuke’s subconscious mind or something.

          • Comment by oddy:

            Oh yes, Itachi is great. I don’t really care about Hinata + Naruto, but it makes more sense than Naruto ending up with Sakura which I really don’t think will happen. I think they will go the way of Jiraiya and Tsunade who never got together. I wouldn’t count out Orochimaru ;)

  12. Comment by montlepuy:

    The criticism of the ninja-babe seems out of place considering previous entries in the series explained that this archetype existed well before the PC push. It also seems like an unnecessary concession to the feminists. If battle-ready, scantily clad warrior vixens were around in the golden age of sci-fi, why should they be criticized for being “eye candy” (which itslef is a fairly superficial critique). Comic books and anime have taught me that costumes are not what makes a character.

    • Comment by John C Wright:

      I like ninja-babes. The criticism was that PC, by eliminating subtle signs of femininity, leaves only blatant display of secondary sexual characteristics to make the character sexually attractive, which is immodest, removes the mystique of the woman, and is ultimately demeaning, which is the very opposite of what the PC types say they want for female characters.

  13. Comment by The OFloinn:

    The title is meant as an obvious joke.

    What part of THAT’S NOT FUNNY!!! did you fail to understand? Dear me.

  14. Comment by LugoTeehalt:

    Rania has the competent male role — she is saving the human race! — and appears to take for granted that Penelope, uh, Menelaus will be OK in the female role of waiting with fidelity and devotion for umpteen thousand years until Rania returns.

    For him to remain faithful to her throughout all that time is just a leeeetle challenging to the suspension of disbelief. But at least he has “something to do” while he is waiting.

    • Comment by John C Wright:

      I should have had a scene where Menelaus was weaving the lines of predictive history, and then unweaving them at night as a stall, to fend off the suitors among the pushy female Hermeticists. Too late now, but maybe I can have Rania return in disguise as a beggar.

      Don’t tell the femininsts that I write fiction with the traditional sex roles swapped, or else their opinion that I am their loathsome subhuman foe will implode, with ugly results.

  15. Comment by Nom de Guerre:

    Her unruly golden hair, cut square at her shoulders

    Howard and his confounded square-cut-shoulder-length-hair fetish…

    Apparently what we men also like is fighting sharks, women in bathing suits, lost treasure, fighting undersea robots, women not in bathing suits, headhunters, and fighting alligators.

    Mr. Wright, I don’t think any of those women are in bathing suits…

    It nearly ruined the show to pair the heroine with the comedy relief, because the needs of drama require that the romantic male lead save the girl to win the girl, something the comedy relief cannot do. Otherwise no one can tell why the girl likes the guy.

    Indeed. See G.I. Joe: Rise of Cobra for one of the more egregious examples.

    Not only is the “comedy” relief an utter fool, and not only is the supposedly-brainy heroine’s attraction to him inexplicable, but said comedy relief is A: a previously non-existent black character bearing the name of a white character (in a film ostensibly exploiting the character-recognition factor of an established franchise), which would have had the usual suspects screaming blue bloody murder if the reverse had been the case, and B: his presence and role in the film tramples all over the relationship between the characters of the mute American ninja, Snake Eyes, and his feisty, Irish-American lady-love, Scarlett (impishly given the surname “O’Hara” and the birthplace of Atlanta, Georgia by comics scribe Larry Hama), one of the most well-established romances in the “Joe versus Cobra” canon, for no reason whatsoever.

    • Comment by John C Wright:

      Mr. Wright, I don’t think any of those women are in bathing suits…

      The woman in the upper right, finding the lost treasure of the sunken city, is in a bathing suit. The native girls bathing to the lower left being guarded by the headhunter fall under the ‘National Geographic Exception’ are, of course, in their birthday suits. I did not think it needed mentioning that men like that.

      And I agree, G.I. Joe: Rise of Cobra did a disservice to we established fans. Didn’t they also make our All-American hero into some UN Blue-Helmet group out of Belgium? It was terrible. We man also like guns and shooting and soldiers and ninjas, and a lot of us like Scarlett. I think it is her square cut shoulder length hair.

      Scarlett and her hairdo

  16. Comment by Scott W.:

    I wrote a blog entry comparing the Hunger Games to Death Race 2 and judging the latter, try not to laugh, to be superior. Namely, that in DR2 the protagonist is more like an agent of a moral order that metes justice to backstabbing judases and duplicitous sluts; whereas in the Hunger Games there is a subtle moral poisoning going on. When Katriss has her pre-games interview and she smiles for the camera and twirls in her flame dress, she goes from being a material cooperator with evil to a formal one.

  17. Ping from Lightning Round – 2013/12/11 | Free Northerner:

    […] SF from strong female characters, part 6. Related: Pink vs. blue SF. Related: The fatal conceit of SF: how can maladjusted nerds understand […]

  18. Comment by Nom de Guerre:

    The woman in the upper right, finding the lost treasure of the sunken city, is in a bathing suit.

    I can’t see any differentiation in colour between where the suit would be and her skin. Additionally, the strategically-placed arm across her chest and rock formation helpfully obscuring her groin argue in favour of the young woman being cast in the mould of the literary version of Honey Rider so far as swimwear is concerned.

    And I agree, G.I. Joe: Rise of Cobra did a disservice to we established fans. Didn’t they also make our All-American hero into some UN Blue-Helmet group out of Belgium?

    Yep. The recent sequel did its best to patch things up as much as possible without completely disavowing the abomination that had gone before (President!Zartan refers to G.I. Joe as “the world’s elite fighting force” but the plot implicitly identifies them as American, with the logical exception of Jinx ), Marlon Wayans’ character is nowhere to be found, thank God, and while the filmmakers didn’t get around to having Snake Eyes and Scarlett (wordlessly) affirm their undying love (Scarlett being absent) they did at least give Snake Eyes a better costume, certainly one closer to the traditional faceless avatar of death from the comics than the strange, shirtless alien in outsized sunshades from the first film.

    http://ia.media-imdb.com/images/M/MV5BNzU1OTg4MDU1Ml5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTcwMTgyOTcyOQ@@._V1._SX640_SY962_.jpg

    We man also like guns and shooting and soldiers and ninjas, and a lot of us like Scarlett. I think it is her square cut shoulder length hair.

    Is that really what one would call square-cut hair? When I hear that term I think of, well, the stereotypical image of Conan, or alternatively, Prince Valiant, but I prefer the the traditional ponytail, regardless:

    http://www.lethalagents.com/yojoe/gijoe_scarlett_6.jpg

    I don’t think Nichols was a particularly good choice for Scarlett, though. For one thing, she’s apparently a full inch taller than Snake Eyes actor Ray Park, and beyond that, I’m of the opinion that a red-haired character should be portrayed by a red-haired actress, rather than simply falling back on the dye bottle.

  19. Comment by arkanabar:

    Only vaguely a propos to this topic is the Pulp Magazine Archive!
    http://pulpmags.org/
    I just had to share that.

  20. Comment by teripittman:

    I started reading this and thought of Tomoe Gozen by Jessica Salmonson. But she is a samurai and has no love interest. I complain to my tv about this all the time :) They keep showing women that look like models and pretending that they are physically strong enough to fight and win against a normal sized guy. It’s just not going to happen. I can put up with the idea that they are supposed to be professional cops/criminal investigators/etc and wave their handgun around like a girl. I just think we need to get real about the differences in physical strength.

  21. Comment by Suburbanbanshee:

    Twilight Sparkle has square-cut shoulder-length hair… er, an analogous mane, anyway.

    Yes, it’s all becoming clear to me. Robert Howard was supposed to become a brony. And Twilight Sparkle is supposed to be wooed and won by a brawny barbarian fighter-thief stallion.

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