Links to Articles of Interest

I’ve been trying to plan some new articles for this blog, and I thought I’d look back over all of the things I’ve written here, to see if there was anything I wanted to explore in greater depth, or view from a different perspective.

Wow, I sure do write about violent women a lot, don’t I? (Extra credit quiz question: Which of the following characters did I write large research papers about when I was working towards my BA: Clytemnestra, Lady Macbeth, Judith, Jael. Answer: Yes, all of them. Shuddup!)

I can do other things! I swear! Like, for example, I can link to stuff!

First up, here’s an interesting article on “Female scientists on the big screen” by Sidney Perkowitz, over at The Scientist. The differences he points out between the cliched female scientist and the cliched male scientist (in looks and social skills, particularly) are interesting, and I find that every film that I can think of offhand with scientist characters supports his observations. Can you guys think of any counterexamples?

On the subject of academia (loosely, but work with me, here!), it seems that the academic journal Women’s Studies: An Interdisciplinary Journal will be putting out a themed issue “on the topic of Women and Science Fiction & Fantasy,” and is accepting submissions of papers for publication. Those of you who are scholars may be interested in reading more about it, posted at Feminist SF – The Blog!.

And for those among us who are writers with a more creative bent, my dear friend Karen Healey has recently put together an article on “How To Write An Original Female Lead Character In A Fashion That Doesn’t Drive Karen Crazy“ for her blog Girls Read Comics (And They’re Pissed). She’s talking specifically about writing female characters for superhero comics, but I think her advice can be generalized to most other kinds of fiction.

So there you have it. Links! I hope you find them interesting, and I promise to write something more substantial soon – starting with a series of short articles about the women of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine. Not all of whom punch people, by the way, in case you were wondering.

Comments

  1. Jennifer Kesler says

    All good stuff, but I have to admit I particularly enjoyed Karen’s article. She summed up the stuff that’s so normalized it’s hard even for women to see, because we’re so used to it. For example, rape: why do I avoid it like the plague on TV? It happens in real life, so it should happen on TV. But as she said about comics, it generally ends up somehow being all about the men involved. The rapist, the cop chasing him, the woman’s mate, etc. Her vagina is a male territory someone’s poached on, damn him. Her existence is a plot device. I can’t imagine 99.9% of the rapes on TV being cathartic for anyone, including males who have been sexually assaulted or molested.

    The scientist article is also good. The female scientist she’s talking about is the geeky male scientist’s ultimate wet dream – a stunningly hot chick who would totally understand why his work has to come before her. Oh, if only she existed in real life, instead of those real female scientists who likewise put their work ahead of their love lives, those hostile femi-nazis!

    I think this is what has fueled so much controversy about Sam Carter on Stargate. We thought we had a brilliant, strong female who didn’t come equipped with Witty Banter or Automatic Sexual Tension. I even liked (early on) that she didn’t have leadership skills – some people don’t. Then her shirts shrunk (see Karen’s comics article on inappropriate wear for your female character), her insecurities and failures grew, and things just changed. By the end, they’d brought in two recurring geeky male scientists who drooled over her, thus proving what the female scientist character is really all about: the men in the lab with her.

  2. Revena says

    I do think Karen’s article is a great starting point for people who want to start thinking more critically about how they design female characters for fiction of any sort. The part about it that I wish I could particularly bring to the attention of sci-fantasy moviemakers is the problem of having only one female character in the ensemble cast of “main characters” – like in Pirates of the Caribbean, etc. There are actually more women than men on the planet, by a slight margin! Why are there so often more men than women in our fantasy adventure narratives?

    “The female scientist she’s talking about is the geeky male scientist’s ultimate wet dream – a stunningly hot chick who would totally understand why his work has to come before her.”

    You know, this makes me think about other “fringe culture” groups that are perceived as primarily male, and get represented in mainstream films. Like, geeks. Now, I can think of a few movies that portray male geeks as powerful, suave, and generally desirable people – but most of the mainstream films that I can think of have them as unattractive, poorly socialized people whose power over technology, while often respected and required by the film protagonists, is less awesome than the power of being able to blow stuff up or shoot it with guns or whatever. But girl geeks? Outside of teen comedy films, are they ever unattractive?

    I can’t think of any female geeks in film (outside of teen comedy, as I said) that are as chubby, greasy, and generally fashion-unconscious as their male counterparts so often are. I’m sure I’m just missing some, though, but hmm…!

    This could actually be a great excuse to rent a bunch of fun action and sci-fantasy films and take notes on any possible gender dimorphism in their portrayals of the members of various subcultural groups!

    And the fact that I’m a little excited about that possibility probably tells you all you need to know about what sorts of labels you can apply to me. ;-)

  3. Jennifer Kesler says

    *snort*

    You know, the article mentioned Chain Reaction, and since I was actually working in film at the time it was being made, I remembered an interesting little tidbit: the studio wanted Keanu Reeves in the lead, but the producers didn’t think anyone would buy him as a scientist because he was so cute. So he gained a bunch of weight and went for a sort of greasy look in otder to make it work. So it’s not just that female scientists need to look like sex symbols; it’s that brilliant men must also be portrayed as neither cute nor athletic. Because, what? Pretty guys are automatically dumb? Athletic guys would rather sit on their ass working an office job than sit on their ass working in a lab? WTF?

    I’m thinking the same dichotomy might apply to TV lawyers. Female lawyers are never ambulance chasing sleazoids who have cold sores and bad hair. Male lawyers can be exactly that, or they can be as stunning and ethical as their female counterparts, or anything in between. But every female lawyer I can think of on TV looks like a model. How close is that to the kinky librarian fantasy?

    Basically, I think it’s about reducing women to non-intimidating status for the fragile egos of the target audience. If you’re male, and the idea of having to compete with women to get law jobs or scientist jobs scares you, you might get turned on by the idea that underneath that smart suit or lab coat beats the heart of a girl who either adores you or just can’t wait to get her hands on you, then you’re on top again. In your mind, anyway. ;)

  4. Revena says

    Gosh, I think Camryn Manheim is gorgeous! It’s true that she doesn’t fit the usual “model” body type, but she still has an awfully pretty face.

    Can you come up with any others?

  5. Jennifer Kesler says

    She is a big step up from the usual model look, but she’s no Harvey Keitel. Still, any deviation from the usual Girl Friday is worth a mention.

    I just thought of Chloe on 24. OMG, she was such a great female science geek. Poor social skills (“I’m sorry your husband’s been shot in the neck, but you need to focus”), okay-looking, and great at her job.

    Willow on Buffy really wasn’t bad, at least not until the whole show went off the rails. Her looks were played down, her social skills were weak. Of course, she’s not strictly a science geek… but that just shows you how far we’re having to reach.

    No, I can go one limb further out: Velma on Scooby Doo. :D

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