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Male/Female Characters

Discussion in 'The Authors' Café' started by Quilava42, Feb 4, 2013.

  1. Quilava42

    Quilava42 Blazing Flowers

    What do view on them in fan fics? There are those who tend to write these characters of the opposite genders in every fic or story for a purpose, since it's what they want to do.

    But what do you think of each gender in these fics? The males are quite overused at some occasions and female are sometimes used as supporting characters in my view. The females are there as the deuteroganists sometimes. But males are used probably for dominance. But it's my view.
  2. Cometstarlight

    Cometstarlight What do I do now?

    I guess it really just depends on who is writing the story

    Male characters have a more strong aura asociated with them, while female characters are usually used to help bring out the male's character in how he would react to certian situations.

    Female characters have an almost innocense to them, but obviously not all of them. Females, don't get mad at me ladies (this is a girl talking here), tend to have an almost weaker character. I'm not speaking offensively to their personality, I'm talking physically. Being of less muscular built than guys, it may seem that female characters need to be protected more often. This could lead to some interesting conflicts as the male character may become tired to always defending said female or the female may feel bad that the male protects them all the time.

    Something that kind of bugs me here is what they are doing to female characters now. Much like Bella from Twilight and Katniss from the Hunger Games (Yes, I just made that comparison, just bare with me for a moment.) They have a more coarse personality. They hate being rescued and they feel that they need to be tough and have jerky attitudes for people to take them seriously. (That's where the similarities end with those two characters aside from the love triangle). Some may feel that the girl has to have a rough attitude and it may be interesting in some situations but if it's overdone, like in Twilight and Hunger Games, it just takes away from the character and makes them seem almost annoying and pathetic.

    Yeah, that was longer than expected, but I digress. Females can have a leading role and not be weak or defenseless, but they don't always have to be, "Don't under estimate me because I'm a girl, I'm gonna start kicking everybody's-

    Yeah, you get the picture, it gets irritating. There just really needs to be a check and balance, both with males and females.
  3. Quilava42

    Quilava42 Blazing Flowers

    Pretty much, in most of my stories I wrote, half of my main characters are female and like I usuall try to make them unique in some way to fit the plot. Like in this one-shot I had, unlike a sweet and nice girl, I tried one lonely emo girl based on myself even though I'm a guy here. But she's girly in some way as I make her outgoing after she gets her best doll into a Pokemon. Mostly all of the characters in that one shot were female.

    And you're right on females. With the exception of Hiro Mashina's Fairy Tail manga and anime adaption, some females are stereotypically weak or overexaggerated. Some are there to show love to the male protagonist every single time or if a boy always has to save the girl. Let them prove that they are strong. Even OMA from Fullmetal Alchemist who is very brutal and strong for one, even Izumi.

    Back to fan fic logic, I do think that females there should get main roles except males who are there to either protect the female only or wants to provide love. The females need more power and they need to be shown by their strength, intelligence and other quirks.
  4. JX Valentine

    JX Valentine ██████████

    Buffy, Xena, Scully, Starbuck, and the plethora other female protagonists of 90's television beg to differ. So would Wonder Woman, Batgirl, Sailor Moon, and I could keep going. Really, while it's a stereotype that women end up being damsels in distress, it's not really all that unusual to find a strong female lead who doesn't need to be rescued.

    Do females always have to be badass when they're the lead? No, and in that case, most magical girls will still beg to differ with the above statement about women being weaker by default. Or if you don't want to think about a female lead who physically kicks ***, you've also got the Disney princesses, who themselves are based on fairy tale, folklore, or historical (Pocahontas says hi) figures, which means the entire "female is awesome and doesn't necessarily physically kick ***" thing is older than dirt.

    Point is, people who automatically assume that there's no strong female lead who doesn't always act badass are, well, forgetting the plethora who are. Which really is about as problematic a viewpoint as thinking a good female character is the one whose only job is to sit around, wait to be saved, and provide conflict for the male character.

    Feminism ranting aside, I... really don't think about which gender I use when I write. There was only one time when I did, and that was for an original fic wherein, yeah, the gender of the character was actually plot-relevant. Other times, the gender of the character isn't plot relevant to me, so I create characters based on what I think I need the most. For an egotistical example, there's AEM. The main character is male because I wanted to write about Bill, so I didn't really have a choice in the matter. The lead secondary character is female because I wanted to have that role be the Lancer/love-hate interest for Bill, and I just happen to ship him with Lanette the most. Ergo, she had to be female. And so on and so forth, right up to the two original characters, Thom and Nettle, who are male and female respectively because they just felt best as male and female. Point is, I don't set out to say, "I want to write a girl lead in this fic and a guy lead in this one." I don't really use gender roles in my fics. I just create a story, ask myself what I need in it, and cook up a character who fits, period.

    But when it comes to other people's fics, I sometimes take notice of gender, but mostly, it's in cases that contain problematic issues. For example, if a female character only exists to be the love interest of another character (or spends most of her time being so, even if she has "moments" of her own), then I notice. If a female is over-the-top badass, I notice, but I tend to notice the over-the-top badass males more (just because hilariously dark/broody/pretentious/stereotypically badass male characters smack of overcompensation). If you have a guy who's a damsel in distress, I take notice, but that's more because there's so many fics in this fandom that don't really cast the guy as being the one who needs to be rescued that it's a little interesting when it happens.

    Or in short, if you write stereotypes and gender roles instead of characters, it's just noticeable, no matter why you're doing it, and it's important to note that that's not always a good thing. Of course, there's differences between men and women that should be addressed (and I'd be lying if I said I didn't think about gender on any level of character creation -- just not in the initial stages of developing a plot), but the point is one should remember that characters should be more than just a gender archetype. Or at least they should remember that handling gender issues tends to require some level of care.
    Last edited: Feb 4, 2013
  5. Kutie Pie

    Kutie Pie 桜咲くこの坂を今も上っている

    Sorry if I go all over the place or something like that. I know what I want to say, I just can't seem to put it all into words today for some reason.

    To be honest, many, many heroes are male because that's the common role (the first writers were male after all--unless I'm mistaken). When someone thinks of a hero, they tend to think of a man saving a damsel in distress, even though that's been dying out in recent years. There's nothing wrong with it, but it's clichéd, for one thing, and you're going to have those people who cry out "sexist" whether that was the author's intention or not.

    It all depends on the story being written, what the plot/message is about, et cetera. You can bet that about eight out of ten, the hero of the story will be a male, though it does depend on the genre. Action flicks you can bet your bottom dollar it'll be a male 99% of the time. Romantic-comedies tend to try and meet in the middle, I'd noticed, though in most of them, the protagonist tends to still be the male. Meanwhile there are flicks like, say Mean Girls (have no idea what category to place it in) that have a female protagonist.

    Though of course, you'll have movies where the role of the hero will be reversed, which can be surprising depending on the genre of the movie. Like take Alien for one example (forgive me for botching up something due to not having seen the movie in years). Yes, there are a lot of characters involved in fighting off these aliens, but Ellen Ripley is the heroine, and remains one in the sequels. She's a strong woman, and she has to be because of what happens in these movies, and all the freaky, horrific events that happen. I'm sure at the time roles like hers were unheard of (heck, not long afterward, Metroid is released, and thus Samus becomes one of the first, if not the first, female heroes in video game history).

    But it can fall flat on its face if the characters aren't written correctly. Mérida from Brave would've been an amazing character, but sadly when Brenda Chapman got fired (or replaced, whichever), Mérida's character was changed, and thus though the potential is there, she lost a lot of it. Doesn't mean she's not likeable, a lot of people do like her, she's just not as strong as she was supposedly built up to be. The same thing happens to male heroes as well (I just can't think of a movie at the moment where that happened to a male protagonist).

    For the most part, the women, if involved, tend to be secondary or supporting characters, but that doesn't mean you can't make them strong characters. It all just depends on how you portray them in what light. If you want strong female characters, watch some Miyazaki/Studio Ghibli films, especially the Miyazaki films. It's a guarantee that you will have a strong, female role in these movies (Spirited Away, Howl's Moving Castle), even if the main hero may be a male (Princess Mononoke, Castle in the Sky). And even then, there are some twists to these characters.

    Anyway, you want my view on male and female characters? I like to try and make them as equal as possible, but it just depends heavily on the story I want to write. Possibly due to my upbringing, I have stories where the characters have some traditional roles, meanwhile I have stories where the main woman has strong characteristics, though not of the feminist way (that I know of, I'm not feminist nor do I care to be). For the most part, I like to try and be traditional with my characters, but with modern aspects. Though I have noticed that all but possibly one or two stories I have in mind/written out have male heroes. Which is fine, there's nothing wrong with it. Would I like to balance out the heroes and the heroines? I'd like to, but again, depends on the story I want to tell, and how I do it.
    Last edited: Feb 4, 2013
  6. Quilava42

    Quilava42 Blazing Flowers

    Pretty much, I seen two of his films. But Howl's Moving Castle is based on a novel. And I see.
  7. Kutie Pie

    Kutie Pie 桜咲くこの坂を今も上っている

    I've read the book myself, and it's a good book, but the animated movie struck a better chord in me. I don't think it being a Miyazaki movie is the biggest reason, it's probably because it's visually stunning, the acting is amazing, and the characters really shine through. I consider myself a rather visual person, so naturally, movies stick well with me than books. Which is odd, being the bookworm I am, though I think I might've skimmed through the book in some parts, since I did borrow it from a friend, and thus didn't really have all the time in the world to read it at my own pace. So I don't remember Sophie's character very well in the book, but the movie's a good adaptation, and she holds up very well in the movie. Watching her character develop was very inspiring.
  8. I want to say something on this one but I'll be short and snappy. ;p

    I don't chose leads based on gender. I basically just say "oh I want to write a story centered around X" and do it. As for the rest, while I give my OCs different traits, I also tend to give them traits that also make them male or female. (ie: not a big fan of girls who act mostly like they are guys or guys who act as if they wish they were girls. Hey, I'm not trying to say i have a problem with tomboys or tomgirls, I have quite a few on my roster of OCs, but.... there's just no other way for me to explain this other than, I'd still want them to have girly or mainly traits intact as well)
  9. The Great Butler

    The Great Butler Hush, keep it down

    This thinking is going to lead you to problems. As soon as you start getting into "traits that make them male or female" the chances of making stereotypes instead of characters goes way up.

    I think it's a lot better to assign traits to characters independently of their gender.
  10. Kutie Pie

    Kutie Pie 桜咲くこの坂を今も上っている

    And there's nothing wrong with this, but you can end up making them too girly and too masculine if you're not careful. You have to keep such traits under surveillance so you don't end up flanderizing them as such. You will also have to keep in mind the setting of your story, the actions of these characters, their interactions with other characters like themselves or opposite, and you must always remember who they are as characters. You also have to make them feel believable, and prove they can hold themselves up.

    Possibly one of the biggest problems with traits like this is that it can end up backfiring when it comes to gender roles. You make a male too masculine, you're going to end up making him the most dominant over other characters, particularly female characters, and the girly characters are going to turn out as weak, one-dimensional characters--or so that's how the reader will feel. To prevent such unfortunate incidents from occurring, you need to give them more developed personalities outside of the obvious gender traits, or perhaps blend it into the story using the setting with justified means. You can't have a male character be dominant in a modern, Western society, but in other cultures, you could do that. But then the line becomes that much more thin because you are going to have to take a side--are you for the female's rights, the male's rights, or are you just showing it for how it is from a neutral point-of-view and have the readers decide for themselves?

    And vice versa.

    You can't just make any female character girly, or any male character manly without good reason. Some character traits fit well with certain characters, while other traits don't, because believe it or not, every character has a different personality. Could you experiment with said-character? Sure, just be wary of how you portray them and their reputation.
  11. yiran

    yiran New Member

    You don't like them as in you don't like the character or they are too unrealistic for you to enjoy the story?

    For me, gender really doesn't matter except for some physiological effects. Like maternal emotions, or ingrained mate competition for males. It's probably because I really dislike society's perceptions on how people should behave due to personal experiences (as in, some of my behaviour is more stereotypical of the opposite gender, and people judge me for it, which means I don't like the stereotypical views). Plus, in my dreams, sometimes I literally identify with the other gender, and the dreams aren't even anywhere near relating to sex or gender dynamics. For instance, I was a boy in a dream where my past life was a cat and my best friend was a K.G.B. spy, but I was a girl in a dream where I stabbed one of my friends that turned evil with glass from a vial she was going to poison me with. Doesn't really fit any stereotypes either, does it? Yes, I have weird dreams. And I digress.

    Basically, since I have actual experience of people (not just me) not behaving according to their gender, I tend to prefer it when the genders don't matter that much. I wouldn't complain if there is some sexual bias in accordance to society's norms, because… that's how most fiction is like. I wouldn't even complain if there is a lot of sexual bias as long as it is reasonable, such as in Ender's Game where the aggression of boys is needed in order to go to Battle School, or in Of Mice and Men which is set in a time period which treats going to brothels as accepted and common behaviour, but if it's there for no reason I'm likely to feel that the story is unrealistic, which will prevent my enjoyment of the story and I will probably stop reading it.
  12. Firebrand

    Firebrand Indomitable

    I think that if you're writing a story where gender is important (i.e. a woman in a patriarchal society, or a son who is the only child of a woman in a matriarchy) then you've got to pay attention to gender. But as far as other things go... I've never really paid too much attention to it in my earlier writing. I have noticed that over time my female characters tend to be better psychologically grounded than my male characters than my male ones, and more consistently competent. That may be because in most of my stories the main character is male and I love having main characters with deep-seated psychological issues, but I digress.

    If you're looking for a story with strong female leads, try Jane Linskold's Firekeeper saga. The interesting about those books in particular is that the society is specifically written as one that is gender-neutral, and the author took especial care to ensure that in the world of the story, women have just as much potential to wield power as men.

    In my own work, the only time I have dealt with gender issues is in the original fiction I'm working on right now. The society is male-dominant, but the protagonist is a female who has come into immense political power. One of the major hurdles she has to deal with is the culture she lives in making light of her because she is a woman. She has strong opinions and convictions, but her society has tried to quash it out of her. Because she is given the power she has, part of what she aims to do is make a new society, one that empowers women as well as men.
  13. Dragonfree

    Dragonfree Just me Staff Member Moderator

    Oh my God I wrote up the most ridiculously long post in response to this but it told me to reload the page and because I was using stupid freaking Chrome instead of Firefox and apparently the forums just stopped autosaving for some reason I lost nearly all of it.

    BASICALLY: Characters should be characters first and foremost; their gender may shape part of who they are, especially in a very unequal society, but deciding male characters must be like X and female characters must be like Y is just limiting your possibilities as a writer. It's a fun exercise to stop whenever you're about to insert a character, try switching their gender in your head, and think about whether you like them better that way; it's all too easy to unconsciously make characters male by default except for stereotypically feminine roles, and this kind of last-minute genderswapping can help counteract that and make your cast more interesting and varied. (Ripley from Alien? Was originally written as male, but then they cast Sigourney Weaver, and as a result we have one of the most iconic female action heroes of all time.)

    If you are going to let your characters' gender guide how you portray them, however, it would be wiser to do it to break stereotypes than to enforce them. Female representation in media is still extremely lacking compared to males: just look at the number of works that pass the Bechdel test compared to works that pass the reverse Bechdel test. (For those uninitiated: a work passes the Bechdel test if it has at least two female characters, who have at least one conversation, about something other than a guy. The reverse Bechdel test, unsurprisingly, asks if it has at least two male characters who have at least one conversation about something other than a woman. Passing the Bechdel test or not doesn't say anything important about an individual work - there's nothing wrong with some stories being mostly about male characters - but it is a very interesting statistical metric to apply to fiction as a whole.) Saying "female characters are weaker than the males and not as important and need to be protected" is a pretty good description of how things are now at a rough average (as Jax mentioned, lots of works do have strong female characters, but as a broad tendency it's true), but that doesn't mean it's how things should be or what writers should strive towards.

    That said, also avoid trying to make all your female characters into overly idealized role models. I like reading about broken, screwed-up people, which makes me really notice how female characters tend not to be allowed to be broken or screwed-up: when a writer wants to go beyond shallow love interests and damsels in distress, they like to create ultra-tough superwomen who may have token small character flaws or family problems but must not have any real deep-set issues or failings because they have to be role models that little girls can aspire to be like. Male characters seem to have a patent on being sympathetic but profoundly messed up in complex and interesting ways, which means that time and time again, I find myself watching shows with a bunch of cool women and really wanting to love them but being captivated by the guys instead because it's the guys that are a parade of delicious psychological complexes. (Amazing exception: Puella Magi Madoka Magica. It's a bunch of girls being complex and interesting and having meaningful relationships with one another while thoroughly failing the reverse Bechdel test.)
    Last edited: Feb 5, 2013
  14. EmphaticPikachu

    EmphaticPikachu A tired little girl~

    I can agree with this even if I've done the opposite in the past. .-...

    Given my bias for a lot of things in gender stereotypes being sociological issues, I usually end up giving traits to a character, and then figuring out how those traits would be affected by their gender (or rather, the society). Usually, it doesn't even matter if I'm writing (or thinking of) a non-genderbending story. And that's it. Gender doesn't really matter, I can relate to a male or a female. There are differences...But many times, based on the context of the story, it doesn't usually come up in any meaningful way.

    But if I am writing one...It starts up a little different, since part of genderbending is playing with the stereotypes people tend to place on each gender. But that's a story for another day.
    Point and case...

    I don't really think it matters. Honestly, just use whatever floats your boat. If you feel like writing a male character, do so. Female? Do so. But remember to respect the gender boundaries and try to ignore the stereotypes as much as possible :p...

    Though really, the idea that "girls are expressive" and males are "instrumental" is something that is ingrained in an ideal of a family that shouldn't even exist anymore. We just tend to force it into our stories sometimes due to our upbringings .-....
    Last edited: Feb 4, 2013
  15. Cometstarlight

    Cometstarlight What do I do now?

    ....You don't really need to take it that seriously. I didn't even say all female characters. Remember I'm a girl? Yeah, the feminism rants don't need to be used. I understand where you're coming from: the whole 'girl power' thing. There's nothing wrong with a strong female lead who kicks butt, neither is there anything wrong with a softer spoken female. I was speaking from Twilight and Hunger Games perspective. Their lead females just have too much of a gradient personality that its kind of like sandpaper, in which it just gets irritating. I love the Hunger Games, but by the end of the second book and much through the third, I just wanted it to be over because I couldn't stand Katniss anymore, same with Bella.
  16. Pyroli

    Pyroli Banned

    Oddly enough, I usually write in a male's perspective, and prefer it. I'm a girl, so it's slightly odd for me. I prefer letting male's take the lead, however I usually make my male characters kind of girly, weak, you know; the feminine stereotypes? Whereas my female characters tend to be more tomboyish and brawny; which I sometimes assume has something to do with myself.

    In all honesty, characters are characters without true dependence on a gender. Hell, you could have an Agendered or Angroygnous character, it's a free country. A hero is what you want the hero to be.

    Take a show like Supernatural, for example. The two main characters are both men, two brothers who have differing personalities. Although, in the traditional "gender roles" sort of thing; Sam is more the female (Cooking, making sure his older brother doesn't get into trouble, and bringing out the true hero characteristic of Dean. Dean, in a contrast is much more of a brawny male character (See also: Jock.).

    Anyways, fandom television aside. Most people just tend to assume that women are more emotional, and men are more protective and easily provoked. (IE: Women plan, Men are spontaneous.)

    Just really, do what you want? You could have the most boyish female character you wanted, or the most feminine male character really. Homestuck is actually an awesome example considering all the different types of male and female characters that sprout out from it.
  17. JX Valentine

    JX Valentine ██████████

    Well, female characters are a rather interesting subject, although Dragonfree's got a point in saying that by and large there's a lot of female damsels in modern media... which is really something that should be changed because it's usually pretty problematic. And why that is is a rather serious subject, especially considering the message that's delivered with damsel characters tends to be really problematic for girls, especially if they take damsel characters to be role models. For example, you might have girls who say that Bella is a great female character and that her relationship with Edward is perfect, but Bella allows herself to be controlled by Edward. So if you have girls who think they should be submissive to someone who controls them... it doesn't end well.

    Never said you did. But you did say many, and that's where the point of debate is.

    Poster's gender doesn't matter in issues like these, unfortunately and ironically. See, there's such a thing as internalized misogyny. That's when girls who have lived in a system where they're told they need to be second fiddle to men just assume that it's perfectly normal for, well, women to be second fiddle to men. Point is, just because you're a girl doesn't automatically mean you can't be misogynist. Not saying you are. Just saying that you should still be aware of the possibility.

    Why not? We're talking about female characters and their roles in stories, especially alongside male characters. That's pretty much the feminist topic in media.

    Put it this way: there's a difference between feminist thought and feminazism. (I swear to God there's a better word for the latter, but I'm way too tired to remember what it is.) If you're talking about feminist thought, you're discussing whether or not women should be portrayed as equals to men; if you're talking about feminazism, you're talking about whether or not females should be superior to men. The feminist thought is a very important one to discuss when it comes to handling female characters because there's so many ways you can create a stereotype out of a woman. The feminazi thought? Not so much. The thing is, though, the post of mine you're quoting is an attempt to discuss feminist thought by bringing up examples of women done well, with and without having to resort to making her into a badass. 'Course, it's also a point made horrendously while neglecting to take into consideration the problematic bits of media, but hey, nobody's perfect.

    True, but when you cross the line and have the woman be a female stereotype, then things get a little iffy. In the case of the discussion you brought up earlier, there'd probably be some issues with having a female character who has to be saved all the time. Why? Because of two reasons. First, there's just as many damsels-in-distress in media as there are any other female character, so that can be problematic if one of the most prominent ways of portraying a woman is by having her be unable to defend herself. (She doesn't even have to be reliant on a man for that portrayal to be problematic. If she's so vulnerable she's rendered unable to function by herself, that tends to send a bad message.) Second, you brought up the idea that it would provide interesting conflict, but the problem is that the conflict is for the guy. If at the end of the day, the whole story's about the girl eventually growing the spine to help herself and if the conflict was focused primarily on her (as in, it's a conflict for her and not her male partner), then that would be one thing, but if the conflict is simply how tired of saving her the male has gotten, then that implies that the woman's not learning anything from this -- or that the woman is to blame for the conflict or that she's only there to generate drama for the male. That's a problematic portrayal.

    Point is, seems to me that the basic subject of this thread is how to handle male and female characters. Problem is that that subject's pretty heavy when it comes to gender issues because unless everyone's answer is "I really don't care," the subject's inevitably going to bring up how the media handles different genders. Unfortunately, as we've all already covered in one way or another, mainstream media has a lot of issues with women, and that in turn influences the way fans handle male and female characters because one of the things the media teaches us is where a man's and woman's places are in a story.

    What my earlier point was about was the question of whether or not there was a nice enough cornucopia of women in less mainstream media and in media from eras and cultures that weren't so much influenced by the hilarity of the Victorian Era to say argue whether or not there's a decent selection of characters that don't fit the categories you're mentioning. But as Dragonfree brought up, denying that there isn't an overabundance of characters who do fit those categories is also rather silly, so... hey.

    But either way, yeah, female characters don't -- or shouldn't, anyway -- fit just two categories of "soft-spoken and submissive" or "brash and butt-kicking." There's definitely different types of strong female leads and different types of well-developed and not-so-strong females, just as there's a broad range of personalities in real-life people besides "starkly assertive" and "not-starkly assertive."

    Or tl;dr, feminism in this kind of topic is inevitable. It's the internet, and it's a writing forum at that. Sooooo... just as a legit, non-sarcastic heads-up. If it wasn't brought up while discussing your post, it probably would've surfaced anyway later on down the line as we discuss stereotypes, which ones are good, which ones are horrendous, and which ones are inevitable. Sad truth is, you just can't talk about male or female characters in fiction without talking about what being male or female means in a story. (Even if it just leads up to "I write whatever my plot needs.")
    Last edited: Feb 5, 2013

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