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Thursday, October 10, 2013

Hey, Katniss McToughPants: Enough Already.

I'm going to say something shocking.

I am so over tough girls. "Strong female characters". Whatever you want to call them. The woman carved out of rock whose stoicism borders on sociopathy. They're overdone, they're boring, and they frustrate the shit out of me.

Let's back up. I love The Hunger Games. I also have a soft spot for YA dystopias featuring female protagonists. So maybe it seems weird that I'd say I don't like the tough girl since all of these books star the tough girl. But that's just it -- I am completely unsurprised when I crack open a book (although I read electronically, so there is very little book cracking in my world) and am greeted by some teenage girl who solves problems by being quiet, cold and lethal. I'm sick of reading as these girl scoff at lesser females who cry and feel things. In other words, scoffing at characters that resemble me.

I'm a crier. Not an "omg something horrible just happened to me and psyche has shattered and this has manifested as tears" crier, either. I am a "I cried through the last 800 pages of Harry Potter" crier. An "ASPCA Commercial" crier. An "omg that violin is making me sad" crier.

People. I cried when I watched Napoleon Dynamite. And when I watched it a second time because people told me it was funny and something was wrong with me? I cried again.

Imagine me sobbing right now.
So yes. I am a crier. And yet I am constantly confronted with an endless mass of tough girls who, if they ever did cry, would probably have tears made of acid that they then used as a weapon to take terrible revenge upon the evil sons of bitches who broke their psyche in the first place.

You probably just thought that you would read that, didn't you? Don't lie to me. There's a market for these books, and it's a big one. And you're here, so you're probably a part of it. 

But I'm done with those girls. The tough girls. I'm bored by them and their perfect sociopath badass tendencies.I picked up a book the other day and within three paragraphs the main character was radiating confidence in combat boots, bedazzled with steak knives and being a total bitch to her stupid scared mother. I yawned. I considered putting the book down. I felt over it.

I think it's time to redefine the tough girl. You know what I think is tough? Bravery in the face of fear. Characters who feel greatly doing big, terrifying things. Storylines with emotional jeopardy. Super Lady Knight Mary Sue of the Most Radical Sword of Death fighting off the zombie ninja horde? Cool, but a little boring. Lady Eleanor of the Holy Shit All I Have is a Stick and I'm Scared of Zombies fighting off the zombie ninja horde? SO MUCH BETTER.

How will Lady Eleanor get out of this one?
Give your characters some vulnerability, people. And not the oh-so common "I am the protector of my sister" vulnerability, or the "I don't feel enough" vulnerability. At this point, these are nothing but cop outs. People like characters that they can relate to. She doesn't need to be crying every other page (like I would be if I were her) but there's only so much bow and arrow prowess I can handle before my eyes might become permanently stuck in the rolling position.

What are you afraid of? When do you feel vulnerable? How do you react when you're vulnerable? Your character doesn't have to be you or anything like you, but if they don't act like a being capable of some goddamned empathy I'm probably going to have a hard time caring about them. 

Superman has Kryptonite.*
Batman has Alfred.**

Mary Sue Tough Girl can have a damned heart.

*Superman has a lot more vulnerabilities than Kryptonite, but I'm trying not to over-geek this post.
**Writing this made me cringe because Batman's vulnerability is actually his debilitating psychological trauma and his tendency to claw at his seeping emotional wounds. But I digress.


  1. I cried when Anjali Sharma met Anjali Khanna in KKHH. When Rizvan Khan says "My name is Khan, and I am not a terrorist". When Lois Lane cradles a dead Superman after his battle with Doomsday. I cried like a baby when Dobby died. Heck I even tear up during the 40 Year Old Virgin. So you come by it honestly.
    Give me characters that can feel. An unfeeling sociopath is not a hero. Someone that can feel loss and pain, but goes on because it is the right thing to do is a hero.

    1. How on earth did I leave out "I see my god in you" from Rab Ne Bana Di Jodi? It gets me every single time.