Open Thread: is there a stigma against men reading women’s stories?

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I recently attended a panel discussion at which I met Elisabeth Robinson, a former film producer and executive turned novelist. The panel’s topic was whether or not publishers are tending to slot all female novelists into the “chick lit” genre. One of the points Ms. Robinson made was that her novel was clearly packaged as “chick lit”, with a picture of a little girl on the cover. It also featured not one but two female protagonists. And yet a number of men contacted her to say while they would ordinarily never have looked at a book with a little girl on the cover, someone they trusted recommended the novel, and they read it, and they loved it.

Hollywood insists men and boys don’t want to see stories featuring women, whether the women are shoe-shopping and falling in love or toting guns and shooting aliens. They say it’s unfortunate the male audience has that bias, but what can they do? Regular readers will be familiar with the response I gave in film school, in the film industry, and on this website: I don’t think men are incapable of enjoying female protagonists or even “women’s stories.” I think rather there is a stigma attached: a man or boy who reads female stuff suffers his masculinity and/or sexual orientation to be questioned. This is a cultural issue, and because marketing influences and shapes culture, I always argued Hollywood could indeed change the situation if they wanted – and open up vast new profit opportunities in the process.

A number of film professionals over the years explained it to me this way: young men prefer to picture themselves as the protagonists while women prefer to have sexual fantasies about the protagonists. They considered this immutable biological fact. The vast numbers of men who flocked to the Alien series and watched Sarah Connor kick ass and watched Buffy, sometimes on the sly, were “exceptions.” Or it was really the spaceship/Arnold/something else they were enjoying so much they’d put up with the unwanted female in the story’s midst. I was told I myself was a rare exception for relating to male protagonists rather than lusting after them. But since then the internet has exploded with women and girls expressing the same feelings.

Ms. Robinson also talked about the stigma against men reading women’s stories, and her book seems to be yet another example of a fiction that’s supposed to repulse men being enjoyed by those men who find it, despite the marketing. I also offered the fact that this website’s largest demographic (by a small margin, admittedly) is, and has been for some time, males 18-34. Judging by how rarely I have to moderate disparaging comments and how infrequently I track back our inbound links to some forum where men are bashing us, I’m going to hazard a guess this means most of that young, male audience is sympathetic to our desire for more diverse, interesting female characters.

What do you think? Are men really so offended by female sci-fi heroines, cops, and dramatic protagonists that they insist on male leads, as Hollywood assures us? Would Aliens have done better with a male lead? Should Terminator have been the story of Kyle Reese instead of the story of Sarah Connor (like, they elude the Terminator just long enough for her to give birth, and then she gets killed – probably protecting her young, of course – and he has to raise John)? Would the new Battlestar Galactica have been more successful if it had kept Starbuck male? Or is it just that men are teased and stigmatized into feeling they shouldn’t (openly) watch movies or shows in which they risk empathizing with a woman?

Comments

  1. FM says

    If they think we just want to lust after male leads, why is there almost never any male nudity or “fanservice” in movies?

  2. says

    Hard to say. I’m borderline obsessed with action heroines, especially in sci-fi/fantasy films/books. But I’m a gay guy, so there’s an entirely “other” psychology involved.

    But it ties into, I think, women as playable characters in video games. There have been some decent discussions of whether the number of men who adopt female avatars do so because if they’re going to be playing the game very often they’d prefer to be ogling a female (because we know what the uniforms look like), or because they’re acting out gender variant thought processes/inclinations.

  3. says

    “young men prefer to picture themselves as the protagonists while women prefer to have sexual fantasies about the protagonists.”

    Ug! Wow, that’s seriously gross.

    Personally, I have mastered the art of identifying and picturing myself as the male protagonist, but as a woman. Does that make any sense? I mean, we have to identify with the male protagonists because often there’s no one else for us to identify with. It’s like when you have a male mentor.

    Here’s one example: On “Numb3rs” my favorite character is Don because I identify with him the most. They’ve been doing some interesting work with their female characters this season, but there’s still not any I identify with. So I watch Numb3rs to see what’s up with Don (and ’cause I like the geeky math stuff). However, I do not have sexual fantasies about Don! lol

  4. Bob Portwood says

    Some folks forget that most men LIKE women. I find I read more books featuring a female as the main character than a male. Blame my youngest daughter, who convinced me to read an historical romance when I ran out of reading material on a trip. Not only was it well done, but I liked that character, and there was enough sex to keep any man happy. Now, I find romantic suspense is my favorite genre. A well written novel is all about characterization and a believable and interesting setting. What’s not to like about an interesting woman in an intriguing situation?

  5. says

    There have been some decent discussions of whether the number of men who adopt female avatars do so because if they’re going to be playing the game very often they’d prefer to be ogling a female (because we know what the uniforms look like), or because they’re acting out gender variant thought processes/inclinations.

    Yes, but it’s sort of ironic that it gets questioned. Seems to me when women watch or play something with a lead male, people don’t ask why. Maybe they just assume it’s because the male is attractive, but in any case I’ve never been teased for expressing my enjoyment of a male protagonist. (And in many, many cases, it’s because I’m relating to him, not because he’s attractive.)

    Personally, I have mastered the art of identifying and picturing myself as the male protagonist, but as a woman. Does that make any sense? I mean, we have to identify with the male protagonists because often there’s no one else for us to identify with. It’s like when you have a male mentor.

    Hell, yes, it makes sense. Every fictional character I feel I relate to very much at all is male.

    A well written novel is all about characterization and a believable and interesting setting. What’s not to like about an interesting woman in an intriguing situation?

    THIS is precisely where I think most readers and film/TV watchers are coming from.

  6. says

    Personally, I know lots of men who like ‘women’s stories’. Just the other day, I was in a room with about half women, half men. Somebody mentioned something about ‘Sex in the City’ – and more of the men were familiar with it than the women were! And plenty of men like (and sometimes even identify with) Buffy, etc.

    There is certainly a stigma against it. Most men won’t mention liking a ‘women’s story’ unless pressed, and only then if they feel like there is nobody judging them. And I think that a large number of hyper-masculine publishers, producers, executives, etc. (who tend to get themselves put in charge) really don’t like women’s stories, and they project their dislike and fear onto their audience.

  7. Merry says

    Hollywood execs are insane. I grew up in a very conservative home where my brothers were raised to be protectors of women (who of course would stay at home and not work)…and even with that, they grew up loving good women characters. Not because they’re sexy, either, just because some are awesome. Now, this isn’t to say that they like watching/reading about “girly” things—shopping, dating, things like that—but good women characters aren’t about that, just like good men characters aren’t about cars and guns all the time.

  8. Lavode says

    What do you think? Are men really so offended by female sci-fi heroines, cops, and dramatic protagonists that they insist on male leads, as Hollywood assures us?

    I think part of it is that they have a stereotyped view of attractiveness, i. e. male sexiness = strength & professionalism, female sexiness = beauty and vulnerability. A hero is usually supposed to be tough and in control, so if he’s male, he’s attractive (enough) because of these traits, and the audience is still assumed to be able to identify with him. Whereas a female character can either be a typical action hero (= not sexy enough) or beautiful and vulnerable (= a bad hero, and definitely not someone you can identify with). So sometimes they try to create a heroine who kicks ass in a suitably pink and girly way, and you get something like the Charlie’s Angels movies…

  9. harlemjd says

    Even when I do find a male character I fantasize about, that doesn’t mean I wouldn’t have enjoyed the story with a woman in the role. It’s not like I’m fantasizing about being the little woman at home – I’m picturing myself in the think of the action, having adventure AND hot sex.

  10. harlemjd says

    Just like all those guys who loved Terminator 2 and raved about Linda Hamilton’s ripped figure.

    (hit submit too soon)

  11. says

    In a way, I think that the idea of identification vs. sexual fantasy is accurate, but only in a very twisted sense.

    What I mean by this is that I think that a lot of guys do relate to female leads, but more in the sense of an internal identification than an external one; as aspects of self-concept, or stimuli for further development of that concept, rather than as display. I don’t think that this is because of a desire to avoid the consequences of disclosure, though. I suspect that it’s more along the lines of keeping it personal and, in that way, valuable. An external acknowledgment of this has to be avoided, to a certain extent, in order to prevent its loss or corruption. That isn’t so much of a concern when it comes to male leads, because there, I suspect that it’s more about nuance. Variations on a theme, rather than full characterization.

    In fact, I’d argue that male leads can and do serve as a… means of translation, if you will. Something that takes the self-concept modified by the understanding that one has of female leads (and has made one’s own) and finds a way of expressing that through the ways in which the men relate to each other — including by means of conflict, this showing up in the reasons for those conflicts, if not in the ways in which they’re carried out. I suspect that women in supporting roles can serve a similar purpose, in terms of defining particular aspects of the context. But I do have to admit that this is more of a conjecture than a theory.

    One of the television shows that has made an impact on me in this way is Fringe, although I think that probably the most direct expression was in the film Behind the Mask: The Rise of Leslie Vernon.

    When it comes to the issue of sexual fantasy, I suspect that this isn’t so much about sexuality as it is about a kind of direct interpretation, relation, and expression. The necessity of translation (a man working to understand himself through a woman’s character, this understanding then being expressed in the ways in which men interact with other men) might not be present in those cases, or as pivotal — but we (men, primarily het) don’t really have a way in which to characterize this difference other than in sexual terms.

    Perhaps the best way to put that is that our language, social as well as manifestly linguistic, isn’t nuanced enough to express it. We don’t have the signifiers; but that might be an effect of the need for translation, itself.

  12. says

    If they think we just want to lust after male leads, why is there almost never any male nudity or “fanservice” in movies?

    Oh, ’cause women aren’t turned on by visual things; we just get all swoony and emotionally attached.

  13. says

    I remember reading somewhere that the producers of “300” put the queen into that movie, so that the female audience would have someone to relate to. Hello? There were 300 buff men running around pratically naked and beating the crap out of the bad guys. Why would I want to relate to the queen? It just proves that Hollywood execs live under a rock most of the time.

    Still, I don’t think the whole problem has much to do with men not wanting to see female protagonists. But it has everything to do with the plot, or how the protagonist is portrayed. I went to the cinema last week. Two trailers caught my eye: “Bride Wars” and “Confessions of a Shopaholic”. I can understand that *no* man would ever want to see such a movie. I’m a woman and *I* don’t want to see them. It’s awfully hard to find good, strong female characters nowaday – more often than not they’re bitchy, neurotic and think about nothing but sex and Manolo Blaniks. It’s embarassing and sad.

    I don’t say every female character has to be “Buffy”. I just want to see some that bear at least some semblance to a real woman.

  14. Nialla says

    Bob Portwood’s experience with romance novels is one I’ve seen a lot in my library. Once you can get a man past the “romance genre is for girls only” stereotype, a lot of men find they enjoy the genre, or at least certain subgenres such as romantic suspense or paranormals.

    What took me the longest time to figure out was why the romantic suspense genre was selling like crazy, including a lot released as hardcovers, when I was having so many female romance readers lamenting the loss of so many of their favorite “traditional romance” authors to the genre.

    I finally decided it was a combination of some woman continuing to follow their favorite author no matter the genre, as well as men who probably wouldn’t be caught dead with a traditional romance reading romantic suspense because it didn’t “look” like a romance.

    The covers in RS generally don’t have much in the way of “clinch” covers, nor the overly muscled men you often see on traditional romance. My romance book club members play “Spot the HOD” with such books, which is finding covers where they guy is sporting a “hint of dick” in addition to other bulges. Publishers think that’s what female readers want on the cover, but just speaking for my little group, we find them hysterically funny. There is a lot more variety in covers these days, but HOD covers are still out there.

    I’ve also seen a lot of male Western genre readers picking up romances set in the West without a blink. I think it started because they were so desperate for new materials, and now they’ve realized it’s not all that different from what they were reading. Some of the Westerns I’ve cataloged were as graphic with language and sexual content as the romances were.

    I once had a guy proudly proclaim he didn’t read books by any female authors. I had to break it to him that many of the “male” names (especially those with just initials) were actually pen names for women. I think I enjoyed that way more than I should have, especially since it was my uncle.

    Then there’s the woman who was avidly reading J.D. Robb’s “In Death” series who looked at me strangely when I recommended a Nora Roberts book. “I don’t read that romance trash.” So I had to break it to her that it was the same author, and she was, in fact, reading romantic suspense.

    I think if you gave a person a book that they’d normally never read with a stripped cover so they wouldn’t have any idea of the genre, they might be surprised over how their tastes aren’t what they thought they were.

    We do judge a book by its cover, even if the cover doesn’t fit the book contents at all, only what the marketing department thinks it should be.

  15. says

    Speaking of identifying with male characters as a woman, in video games when I have a male avatar, not only did I always give him a female name, I usually made up this backstory where he was really a woman who was crossdressing (because she liked big swords) and that the “romance” of the story was very conflicting for her because on the one hand she didn’t want to give up her “secret” identity, on the other hand she was falling right back in love with the female love interest, and there was always this questioning of her sexuality going on in her mind.

    This makes Chrono Trigger even more fun, at least for me. ;)

  16. Bob Portwood says

    Good comment, Nialla. I might suggest readers try Sara Paretsky (V.I. Warshawski), Marcia Muller (3 series, all good) or J. A. Jance (the Brady series) for excellent female characters. Good stuff is out there, just sometimes hard to find amid the detritus.

  17. says

    I just wanted to jump back in and say I really enjoyed the addition of the queen in 300 because she was strong and physical and clearly a vital and respected part of his life and their community. So I thought it was cool that they did that.

    :)

  18. says

    Guys I’ve known who read generally like books with female leads, especially if the protagonist in question was a badass chick who went around solving problems. I was introduced to David Weber’s Honor Harrington series (Honor is female) by a guy, who got into it because it fit with a genre he already knew he liked: military scifi.

    I’ve run across the identify with / be attracted to assumption before, but I’d heard it expressed in a slightly different way. You identify with a lead who’s the same gender as you, and are attracted to the lead who’s the opposite gender. Of course that leaves out same-sex attraction, which is rude. But it’s a little more balanced.

    In practice I think anybody will identify with any lead, regardless of gender, as long as their character is appealing and admirable (or enticingly antiheroic). Personality traits are not gender-specific! And even for people who are really fixed in their own gender alignment, stepping into an other-gendered character’s shoes and saying “what if?” can be a nonthreatening way to explore the boundaries of one’s ego.

    The different levels of identification can have interesting results in videogames. My boyfriend and I both play San Andreas, and I looove taking Carl around to pick up hookers. I think it’s hilarious, and always swing the camera around to point at the front seat where they both sit, motionless, not touching each other while the car bounces and the hooker’s voice-over makes sexy noises. He’ll do it to complete the missions or regain health, but (so I theorize) enough of his real-life persona projects into Carl that he doesn’t find it nearly as fun or funny as I do. San Andreas hookers, to him, are a mere distraction from the real fun of mowing down waves of enemies and blowing things up.

  19. Nina says

    To weigh in on examples of guys enjoying books with female protagonists, I introduced my husband to Lois McMaster Bujold’s Vorkosigan series. He’s read all of them, but his favorites remain “Shards of Honor” and “Barrayar,” the only two with a female protagonist.

  20. Ikkin says

    I think part of it is that they have a stereotyped view of attractiveness, i. e. male sexiness = strength & professionalism, female sexiness = beauty and vulnerability. A hero is usually supposed to be tough and in control, so if he’s male, he’s attractive (enough) because of these traits, and the audience is still assumed to be able to identify with him. Whereas a female character can either be a typical action hero (= not sexy enough) or beautiful and vulnerable (= a bad hero, and definitely not someone you can identify with).

    I guess I must be weird, because I can’t stand Hollywood’s standard of male attractiveness. Professionalism tends to feel cold, physical strength I couldn’t care less about, and an excess of emotional strength just makes the character boring. Not to mention that nothing makes a hero harder to identify with than having him go through women like tissue paper.

    As for the “female” traits, I think a certain type of vulnerability is a good thing for a hero. Vulnerability can be used to underline a character’s strength, since it lets you actually see what the hero has to overcome. Plus, there’s nothing that gets me quite as emotionally attached as the guy actually breaking down when the situation calls for it, instead of just putting it to the side.

    In any case, the problem isn’t that female characters need to be given vulnerabilities to make them attractive – it’s that they’re not allowed to overcome them through their own strength. Which is what makes identification impossible – no one wants to identify with someone who always needs her problems to be solved by someone else.

    • says

      In any case, the problem isn’t that female characters need to be given vulnerabilities to make them attractive – it’s that they’re not allowed to overcome them through their own strength. Which is what makes identification impossible – no one wants to identify with someone who always needs her problems to be solved by someone else.

      Thank you! I was struggling the other day to explain why all the characters I identify with are male, and this is it. Not only are women as likely to be strong, resilient and self-sufficient as men, I’d say that when women are strong, they are generally stronger than men because we’re an historically oppressed group. For someone from an oppressed group to be strong (instead of opting for the permanent victim and/or parasite mode of coping with oppression), she generally has to be more stoic than someone from the privileged group needs to be.

  21. says

    As for the “female” traits, I think a certain type of vulnerability is a good thing for a hero. Vulnerability can be used to underline a character’s strength, since it lets you actually see what the hero has to overcome. Plus, there’s nothing that gets me quite as emotionally attached as the guy actually breaking down when the situation calls for it, instead of just putting it to the side.

    This is why the Noble Woobie neo-archetype is steadily growing in genre media. You’re not alone, and *some* creators are noticing, at least. (John Crighton, the Tenth Doctor, Daniel Jackson…)

  22. says

    Nialla, that’s a great point.

    Bellatrys – “noble woobie”? C’mon, we gotta come up with a better term than that! These are awesome characters, and they deserve a cool name, LOL.

    But on a more serious note… human beings who really truly never lose control, even in private, are sociopaths (technically, Anti-Social or Narcissistic Personality Disorder cases). So in addition to the Noble Woobie – the man who has a full range of human feelings and is not so concerned about someone seeing him lose it occasionally – we’re starting to see a revised version of our old leading men. Take James Bond – the Craig version is still frighteningly functional, driven and competent as any other Bond, but we get glimpses of real feelings from him once in a while, so we know for sure he’s a tightly wound Type A personality rather than someone who actually doesn’t have feelings.

    This is a really interesting change to track, because it means Hollywood is changing its thinking somewhere. Traditionally, they believed males don’t want to see feelings on screen, only females do. So either they’re courting the female audience with these glimpses of emotion which males aren’t nearly as turned off by as they once feared, and/or they’re thinking men actually want to glimpse humanity in their heroes.

  23. SunlessNick says

    The vast numbers of men who flocked to the Alien series and watched Sarah Connor kick ass and watched Buffy, sometimes on the sly, were “exceptions.” Or it was really the spaceship/Arnold/something else they were enjoying so much they’d put up with the unwanted female in the story’s midst.

    So what’s their explanation for men who didn’t want to watch Terminator 3 without Sarah Connor?

    A number of film professionals over the years explained it to me this way: young men prefer to picture themselves as the protagonists

    Putting that together with this – When men sit down to watch TV or a movie, they’re more likely to be frustrated by real life problems they can’t solve – could easily be seen as drawing men to heroines over heroes. Female characters have been allowed to be Noble Woobies for longer than men have. Horror is meant to be scary and horror heroines are made more scared, thrillers are meant to pressure-cooking, and thriller heroines are made more pressured.

    And if you’re not watching to escape from the idea of problems, you’re likely to want to empathise with characters who find their problems as burdensome as you do yours. And when heroines tend to be written as more burdened and hurt by their problems than heroes are, that makes them easier to identify with; and when they overcome anyway, that offers a sense of fulfilled aspiration that a superman never can.

    And the same kind of escapism might draw men to identify with rescued heroines, out of a desire to give up “manly stoicism” and get saved.

    Women on the other hand are expected to aspire to being as described in the previous paragraph – and are unsurprisingly not satisfied with it – When women sit down to watch, we’re more likely to be frustrated by problems we could fix but aren’t allowed to. Which may draw women to characters in a position to know what needs doing and do it – and in Hollywood, those tend to be men, and thus used to prove that women also want to see heroes rather than heroines (while neither of the other hypotheticals are used to prove that men want to see heroines).

    And then of course there will be viewers of both sexes who want to watch characters of their sex being an exemplar of what’s demanded of it.

    But really I suspect most viewers have all that going on inside them, and so want a variety of characters – wider than any of them are being credited with wanting.

  24. says

    This is a little off-topic, I found the comment that they felt they had to add the queen into 300 to appease the female audience interesting. Because all the het women I know loved 300 for the men, TYVM. But while I too enjoyed the queen in 300, I actually felt like she was there as a buffer for homophobic responses. Think about it–in a film full of scantily clad men fighting, who’s the only technically naked people in the film? The queen and the oracle. In other words, women. The sex scene was very careful to show his ass in shadows and no full frontal, and focused on the queen and her naked breasts. I found this interesting–as if female (sexual) nudity was to apologize for a film full of gorgeous men in loincloths–so men’s sexuality is compromised, or whatever.

  25. says

    That plus also to make men not “freak out” about the homoeroticism and male sex objects. Also as if to remind them, “don’t worry, the film’s still for you.”

    That was my feeling at least.

    Can you imagine if the scene where the King is looking out the window with his bare ass in the shadows, and we saw him when he turned around, and DIDN’T see any female nudity during the sex scene?

    Heterosexual men are uncomfortable as it is with male nudity (much less in the absence of female nudity and especially with the way the men look in the rest of the film!), in part because they’re used to the target audience being THEM–and this gets back better to the thread topic.

  26. Ikkin says

    Also as if to remind them, “don’t worry, the film’s still for you.”

    This kind of reminds me about how kids try to avoid anything that’s “too babyish,” so people will think they’re more mature.

    At some point in the process of growing up, that attitude is supposed to be grown out of – the person is supposed to be confident enough in themselves that whether they enjoy something matters more than the category into which it’s placed or the audience it was intended for. But guys just aren’t encouraged to give up the idea that they themselves are somehow defined by those categories, particularly where “feminine” things are concerned (though it can be seen in other ways, as well).

    This is probably partly a confidence thing, and partly the fact that – since the attitude is shared by other guys as well – it’s actually seen by their peers as a legitimate standard by which to judge others. In that sense, there would be a stigma against anything judged to be aimed at women, whether they’re women’s stories, or works in traditionally “male” genres that unabashedly seek female attention.

    And then there’s the separate issue of people having preconceived notions of what a genre is like, and avoiding it because they genuinely think that they won’t enjoy any work that contains the negative elements they attribute to the genre (rather than because enjoying it would imply anything in particular about themselves), which is probably something that’s impossible not to do. Fortunately, that type can usually be convinced to give something a chance if they’re shown that the elements they dislike won’t be there.

  27. says

    This is probably partly a confidence thing, and partly the fact that – since the attitude is shared by other guys as well – it’s actually seen by their peers as a legitimate standard by which to judge others.

    Absolutely–its the role that sexism and homophobia play in forming socially appropriate heterosexual masculine identities. It’s so confining! Women (TY feminism!) have been able to “break out” of many of the confines of traditional femininity (with exceptions and limitations, of course), but “hegemonic masculinity,” defined by what it is not (feminine/gay), persists.

  28. Karakuri says

    I’ve met some guys who’ve internalized this so much, it’s scary. I’ve been shouted at by a couple of guys just for talking about BL (Boys’ Love, the slash of Japanese pop culture). At least one of them was deeply into ecchi anime himself.
    Even worse, the first guy’s girlfriend said he was just joking, the second just laughed when he raved on about feminism “ruining womens’ lives”.

    But on the topic of BL, I find it interesting that there is a rapidly growing fanbase of women (at least in Japan, whose popular culture I know better) are drawn to and relate better to characters in a genre of fiction without women. I think it’s generally the ones who feel more restricted by gender who like this sort of fiction, because they tend to be more interested in power dynamics, which can be explored in an all-male genre WITHOUT having to touch upon gender issues and its associated baggage. It also makes me sad, though, that the female character has to be removed rather than redefined.

  29. Tom says

    Personally, I love Ingmar Bergman’s films and many of his movies feature a female “protagonist” (Persona, Cries and Whispers). Also, Silent Hill 3 was a fantastic video game; Babyface, the Alien series, and Hannah and Her Sisters (my favorite Woody Allen film) are all good films featuring strong, developed female leads.

    As to novels, it’s possible that novels featuring females tend to be less well-received because of societal patterns putting women into a shallower category. Other cultures are fully capable of writing novels featuring women, such as Russia (Anna Karinina by Tolstoy, and many of Dostoyevsky’s books feature strong, dominant female characters) and England (Jane Austen is classic).

    Many modern novels are trashy attempts to emulate Hollywood films regardless of their main protagonist, so the gender is only coincidental unless it’s a heavily masculinity/femininity-dominated book.

  30. Tom says

    this is just two problems of incompetence layered on top of one another to become impenetrable.

    one the one hand, part of it is it’s simply because this society had more men doing the creative work during our cultural formation periods that you see so few female protagonists: writing believably of the opposite sex is hard at best, so the path of least resistance is the predominantly male protagonist. this gets compounded over the years as lazy writers of male characters have many more tropes to fall back on.

    the imbecile media suit sees this state of affairs and makes a pronouncement like the one above, though, because he has that fundamental inability to understand cause and effect that seems to come part and parcel with a business degree nowadays.

    put together, laziness and stupidity form a barrier to any sort of change. the only way to fix it is to start making enormous cash in a way the suits haven’t thought of before, and they will then all imitate you.

  31. Harsha says

    Well, I hate reading chick-lit, but when it comes to Joyce Carol Oates, or any author with intelligent things to say, then I don’t mind.

    And when I make a female character in a game, I am essentially identifying with the female protagonist, and maybe even roleplaying for fun. I might be ogling her behind at the same time, but there isn’t any problem identifying with the protagonist. Discussions about female characters between me and my friends aren’t limited to how hot they are, some female characters are pretty in-depth and fun. Latest, Morrigan in Dragon age. Nicely fleshed out, amoral character, who is believable.

    I would only have problems with women’s stories if they had boring women in them. I didn’t care for The Devil Wears Prada. Fashion is boring. But Coraline, was weird and fun to read and watch.

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