Hey everyone, welcome to a new section. Just a thought posts will be my own personal opinion about trends and idea's rather than my critiques and opinions about particular works. I encourage everyone to challenge me on these thoughts and if you have any suggestions for academic research on them, please comment. I'd love to read it.
Hero's weakness and gender, what exactly do I mean?
While working on some of my own novels and reading a few others I noticed a number of trends about what weakness audiences will and won't accept from their hero's, and that these fell along gender lines. Male hero's are allowed to have certain weakness, and female's their own, often regardless of the character of those individuals regardless of gender.
Males are allowed to be sexually tempted by the villains, give into anger, and pride. Females are allowed to be afraid, be too weak to handle things on their own, and to be hampered by love.
When they are laid out like that... it's more than a little troubling the implied gender expectations that are suggested by this. Males are allowed no emotions but anger and controlled by their penis. While women are weak timid bound by their emotions.
It is so ingrained in the population that when a gender defies the typical weaknesses or characteristics they are called 'coded' in the opposite gender.
In the Hunger Games, Katniss is often talked about as being 'coded' male, exhibiting male traits while Peets is 'coded' feminine.
Coding refers to how to audience interprets the traits, it's usually more clear when referring to sexuality as homosexuality for a long time wasn't allowed to be displayed at all and therefore a number of tricks and troops were created to bring across the idea of homosexuality.
So if you were to have a male who exhibited the feminine 'weakness' of fear, what would you expect? One of 2 things happen, either they are a physically imposing man who shouldn't be scared and pretends not to be till the perfect comedic moment. Or they are physically weak and the fear is genuine and always there for them to overcome. So they are either physically more feminine or the fact that they aren't fitting into their 'male' role is played for laughs.
How deep this coding runs is problematic to discuss as there doesn't appear to be a clear solution, and it can easily be argued that the discussion in itself is causing the problems.
If Katniss having male traits is a problem because it says that females have to adopt male traits in order to be taken seriously as an action lead, than couldn't it be said it is unfair to judge her as a representation and not just as a character. After all there are people who biologically are female but whose personality is "male". However Katniss isn't a person, she is a character and thus the way she is presented to the audience is reflective of society.
Katniss isn't the problem though, we need Katnisss in films/books/games and all types of media. But we also need more than her. We need hero's who are taken seriously representing all kinds of people.
We are a long way away as a society from not thinking in terms of gender coding at both a conscious and subconscious level. Thus in the meantime...
We need more Buffys, more Shaggys, and more Frodos. Characters that mix and blend gender expectations within them.
We need our Arwens, our Peetas and our Mrs Brisby. Characters who coded female.
We also need our Batmen, our Wolverines and our Katnisss. Characters who are coded male with their strengths and weaknesses regardless of their biological gender.
As we slowly work to see more variation in our characters we need to keep the discussion going, we need to make sure that those who are coded female don't just play the role of support to those coded male. I see this as the real danger, that the display of any feminine traits means a character is automatically relegated to sidekick, comedic relief or love interest.
Write something about yourself. No need to be fancy, just an overview.