Thursday, August 12, 2010

i would like to know...

...what in the world it is about YA literature that cannot handle a male protagonist.

I would also like to know when it was decided that well-rounded, developed boys as MCs or narrators became a literary endangered species.

Or why every female character must be able to kick...that large extremity on your lower back.

Hmmm. Now call me stupid, and it's fine if you do, but if something is unattractive and unacceptable for some characters, shouldn't it be unattractive/unacceptable for all characters?
When did we come to the point where we allowed girls the right to walk all over people - parents, friends, and most importantly the love interest - but gasp and hiss when boys do it?

Reading fiction - and especially fantasy - requires the suspension of disbelief, but sometimes that becomes hard to do, even for a fantasy lover like me. When a girl character is written as a physically stronger and a more able-bodied fighter than the boy, my reason-and-logic radar goes off.

I've never been one to defend cliches and stereotypes, but I would like to know exactly where these books are that supposedly have weak, girl-needs-to-be-saved characters. And where these "knight in shining armor" books are as well. Because maybe BORDERS (store of choice) doesn't stock those anymore. I certainly haven't run into them lately. Seriously. And please, do not refer me to the Twilight series. Bella is accident-prone and in need of "attention" (or protection, whichever word you prefer) because it's in character, not because she's a girl. But that's just one example. You know, having every single stinking girl MC in YA be an Ultimate Cage fighter or a snappy sass-machine is indeed a STEREOTYPE and a new cliche. I do not understand the argument that girls need to be this way in order to overcome a cliche, because in actuality a new one is being created.

Perhaps my tastes (in love stories especially) are backward and not up to code for the 21st century reading/reviewing world. That's alright. I truly do not understand what is so offensive about having a strong and supportive share-the-burden love interest. Notice I said "share the burden" and not "take the lead." Because to be frank (and I'm sorry if this is graphic, too) I do not care what kinds of parts you have, no one should take the lead all the time in a relationship. There should be times when the boy becomes the beacon of strength. There should be times when the girl becomes the beacon of strength (but not always physical strength - remember, suspension of disbelief). And to speak honestly, nothing makes me roll my eyes than to see the world "STRONG" attached to a character, especially a girl. That's just an overused word - let's get a little more specific with what we're talking about, please. I do it, too. I try not to use the word "strong" when describing characters unless I'm actually talking about physical strength, because of the fact that the word is used a little too easily. And I don't really think that "strength" is really what a lot of characters have - I think it's a "macho, bad attitude bordering on self-preservation."

So when people say in their reviews or in their discussions "it's so awesome to have strong, kick-a--- girl characters for a change" (and that is NOT a direct quote from somebody's review, don't worry) I get a little puzzled by that. What books have you been reading - YA ones? Because the trend is killing off well-rounded, supportive and substantial guys. Maybe I'd like to trade, 'cause nothing gives me a headache more than amazon-y angry chicks with a chip on their shoulder and something to prove. Apparently YA books aren't supposed to send messages or teach anything anymore, but I still think that it sends the wrong message. Everybody - regardless of gender - should be treated with respect indicative of their worth.

Here at Imagination in Focus, knights in shining armor are welcome to seek refuge here. Vain, arrogant misogynists will be escorted to the door, though. And endangered species-labeled boy MCs are welcome anytime, barring the Holden Caulfield complex.

So to close, I disagree strongly with the complaint that "strong" "smart" "insert-empowering-word-here" female characters are lacking in YA. I'd like to know - where have all the dudes gone? Maybe if we had more well-rounded guys in true teen fiction in addition to MG literature. (and shout-out to the authors of the younger side of YA - ya'll are doing a GREAT job!), maybe more teenage boys would be reading. But that's another post for another day. REGARDLESS of the absence of guy MCs, the ladies of Young Adult literature need to be examined. Or given estrogen pills, whichever.
Does anybody else have any thoughts on this? I'd love to hear what you think, if for no other reason that to know that you do read these posts. I have to post something in between reviews...

(PS the pictures are from the awesome and incredibly hysterical A VERY POTTER SEQUEL. I used pics of Dolores Umbridge because if we're talking about strong, sassy chicks in YA...nobody does it better than Mama Umbridge. Watch AVPS on youtube now!)
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