Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Storytelling Is Not A Discrete Section Of The Brain

Recently, I’ve been fairly put off by women in literature, though it isn’t their fault. Descriptions typically tell you little of what the character looks like and a lot about what turns the author on. Breasts will be mentioned first or second on the list of her features, and they will grab many more adjectives than any other feature. Repeat observations on her status, condition, or for use in the particular scene always seems to head back to the breasts. I’m not upset with fetishizing women, I am that this sleazy thought process is so ingrained that authors do it without thinking. As though every reader really only cares about the level of perky to her tits. I’m not a scumbag and I’d like be recognized as such.

Where I think women are really getting beat on is with male fantasies running rampant in the guise of cultural taboo inspection. Recently I’ve read a novel where the twenty-eight year old male accepted, without complaint, his destiny to get with a fourteen year old girl. Another where an eleven year old (female) wanted to marry the early twenty-something (male). I’ve read about a society where women don’t know where babies come from and sex is just something you do with every guy you know. Another that laughed at the concept of breasts being an area of the body to be covered (feh, ankles are scandalous). Men’s role remain unchanged in each of these new incarnations of society. So are we really exploring cultural taboos through literature or are we creating realms of easy women? One could look at the book in question as a social artifact, make some observations on the current status of women as seen by men in whatever time period the book found publication. But I was reading a story and I’d much rather stay there. Does the male reader more easily lose himself in these fantasy worlds by adopting the author’s sexual proclivities? Certainly there are moments within the narrative designed to be a respite, giving the hero satisfaction which extends to the reader. What I feel when I have a woman served on a platter to me is revulsion. The illusion of the author’s GodHand, that feeling when reading that the story is from a genderless being of pure authority, is whisked away so quickly, with so little fan-fair, that I am double shocked by that and also the pervy old man now sitting with me, whispering tales of young women whose body and mind have been scripted to serve a hapless man hero.

Please stop. You are ruining your own story. You are doing so with a smile that is sly to you and creepy to me.

The female partner to the male protagonist is designed to be perfect for him. Saint like. The guy’s a bumbling mess with a mean streak of luck, but she loves him unconditionally from the moment she sees him even though he rarely, if even, says or does anything right by her. Funny that. I wonder if the condition many female characters find themselves in is due to an author’s inability to create a believable coming-together. Which isn’t a slam. Finding a person in this real world can often seem a lucky series of events in which nobody does anything particular to form the union, but it happens anyway, so perhaps personal experience isn’t the deepest well to draw from. What I’m saying is, if she’s only there to have magnificent breasts and provide personal closure for the hero, I’d prefer her left out.  

There is no reason to treat gender as any different than any of the other constructions of story. It should serve the story in some way. Strip away the great tits and what does a weak tag-along do for the hero? I vote nothing. Any calamity that befalls her is a frustration to the story proper. I have rarely, if ever, felt anything but happiness at the prospect of some little tart getting killed. Usually she does something dumb to get into the situation. I think it would be good for the hero. Toughen him up while providing more focus. If there must be a love interest, can they be an honest character?

The lack of female characters in stories is distressing (also: curious) because there is no reason for it. Often times the male lead isn’t all that manly. Though I’m loathe to start drawing lines to decide where and what manliness is. I like that male characters don’t all need to be Conan or worry for half the story if they’re living up to their father’s ideals. The point is, characters themselves, as is, could be shifted to a different body with no difference in overall narrative. I wonder if this area just gets glossed over in an author’s creative process. Perhaps they only think of Who and How someone beats the ArchFiend, and plug in a male just to get the gears moving forward. Perhaps it’s just for comfort. To know the emotions, social markers, ect, and thus be able to handle any contingency the story might present(as stories don’t seem to be all planned from the start).  Though the character is then taken to such ends that personal experience means little to nothing. Is there a different gender reaction to being named the Chosen Hero? Only if the story is located in actual Human time, with the full history guiding perception. I like to think that if creating another world, alien races, and uncontrollable powers, why not make the sexes equal? I read mostly Fantasy and Science-Fiction, but the imbalance is in more stories and in more ways within Fantasy. Makes me think there’s something in the Fantasy story construction process that tilts the mind to naming males in leading roles. Because even though it’s an alternate world, Fantasy is perceived as somewhere in some history, not a future or present. Then are prejudices leaking in by association?

Regardless, I don’t want to see the genre upended for some moral stroke uplifting women. Those false parades produce only a glamorous shell, which would only serve irony to again emphasize women’s shallow role in stories. I want better stories. 

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