Sunday, November 17, 2013

Widening the Scope Pt. 1: The Strength in Our Characters.

"The problem with strong women is..."

There isn't one. Obviously.

And yet, isn't it strange that this keeps on being something that people ask? Why do people write such strong female characters. You don't hear a lot of people wandering around asking themselves why do people write strong men. Or just... strong "characters".

I can't even believe that it was seven years ago that Joss Whedon got up to accept an award from Equality Now (but YouTube assures me it is so) wherein he made one of his most famous, and one of my favourite, speeches on why he keeps on writing strong women characters.

(You have to skip to about 2 minutes in to get to Joss' appearance.)

It's still a subject that's raised today. From online polls on the "Best Strong Female Fantasy Novels" to writer's panels in the Melbourne Writer's Festival that analyse the same subject. It's pervasive. 

I was going to write up a blog post that listed my favourite books with strong women from the titles I have read this year, but I decided... no. Instead, I want to dedicate a quick post on the top bunch of novels I've read recently with strong characters of both genders.

Strength comes in a lot of different forms. Physical strength, of course, is often given over to men, but there are a couple of books I would like to point out where mental aptitude is shown to be as important. 

In these three novels, we see characters Harry Dresden, Atticus O'Sullivan and Emma Brannon tested with magical skills and mental fortitude that often taxes them. These are the heroes of fantasy novels, the good that fights against evil. 

But not all novels are fantasy. 

Both main characters in The Fault in Our Stars show remarkable strengths of characters against the hands that were dealt to them. Both dealing with cancer and also dealing with a loved one who has cancer, these characters are strong, often humorous and continually in search of their dreams. 

I read the conclusion to Cassandra Clare's Infernal Devices a couple of months ago and what struck me and stayed with me was the strength of integrity and love that the two main male characters of this series showed not only towards the female love interest, but to each other. A lot of the time, women in teen fiction get slammed for their doe eyed responses to the men in their lives, but what I think made the love triangle in these novels so compelling was the fact that Jem and Will loved each other. They had a pre-existing bond that they would not lightly place anyone else above, for all that they came to esteem and love Tessa highly. 

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