Girls with Spunk

Katniss. Hermione. Lessa. Polgara. Lady Macbeth. Alright, I'll even give you Jane Eyre, but I refuse to add Bella into the mix of heroines who I believe are really kick ass. Now, admittedly, most of them are grown women, so I don't think it's fair to really pull them into the mix. I'll stick to the girls in the group--Hermione and Katniss, and because she's their exact opposite in all ways, Bella.

Think about it. Back when all we had were fairy tales told to scare children, the spunkiest of the fairy tale heroines was Gretal who had the wherewithal to shove the witch in the oven and free her brother. I suppose she was one of the first heroines who really took the story in her own hands and proved to the world that we were more than damsels in distress waiting languidly in some tower for Prince Charming to rescue us.

Rapunzel, Sleeping Beauty, Snow White--all waiting around for a prince to come and save them. Or in Cinderella's case weeping for a Fairy Godmother or magic tree and dove to save them (depending on your personal preference for the story.) I have to at least give the Little Mermaid credit for stepping up and trying to get her man even if, in the original, she gives up and loses the prince becoming an air spirit. You'd think that hundreds of years later we'd have seen the modern heroine toe to toe and back to back with the men in the stories. However, we still see so much of that "damsel in distress" nonsense.

The worst offender of this modern type of D.I.D. is Bella. Is there a more useless female in all of modern fiction? And her legions of fans . . .? The mind boggles and I'm at a loss for words. Seriously, hundreds of years and this is the best we can offer our young women by way of literary role models? Bella, whose very name means Beauty (I feel a song from Disney's Beauty and the Beast cuing up behind me) can only mope and moan and languish about her forbidden love. In fact, spends several months where the only narrative we see from her is a blank page with nothing but the name of the month while Edward is away. My students loved that, by the way. It was so romantic. (Insert 8th grade fluttering and sighing as they coo those words.) Was I the only one who wanted to pick Bella up off the floor and smack some sense into her? Or at least take her to a good counselor? I could just never understand how she thought Edward was so romantic. Sure, he found her irresistible but that was just because she smelled tasty! Lover or midnight snack--not what I call romantic, but then again I'm a little old fashioned. I like my guys with a pulse.

I suppose I felt with Bella, all the ground that Hermione gained showing the world that smart girls could be cool and still get the guy (even if he is a little clueless and clumsy) was lost when this whole Bella madness surfaced. I am so thrilled to know that The Hunger Games, with Katniss Everdeen, is still taking the world by storm in the theaters. Because you know, if they liked the movie the book is even better. Katniss and Hermione are both such strong characters in very different ways. Hermione is the scholar, the fact finder who isn't afraid to jump in and really show that all that book learning pays off. Katniss is the eminent survivor in all aspects of her story. Practical knowledge at its height. They both fight for what they believe in and for what they love. They would never pull a Bella and sit off the side while the battle raged. They'd punch their well meaning guards in the nose, grab their bow or wand and head off into the fray.

As the mother of a daughter I am happy that there are such strong literary role models out there. I hope to see more Hermiones and Katnisses in the future and fewer Bellas. As Haymitch says in The Hunger Games after Katniss volunteers, he likes her spunk! I'm inclined to agree.

Comments

  1. Indeed! We need far more Hermiones and Katnisses. Why is it do you think that those stories aren't getting published?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Ithink it's because these stories do play on those girlhood dreams. I don't know one girl who didn't have some sort of princess or knight in shining armor fantasy. Look at the adult romance world. There may several Eve Dallases out there kicking ass and taking names, but there are more damsels in distress. I think, though too, the fact that these women are starting to appear in young adult books will make their appearance in adult novels inevitable. There's more of a trickle-up in the book industry than a trickle-down, I've noticed. I remember being at a books conference for teachers the year before The Hunger Games was released. The woman in charge of the conference said that the book was either going to revolutionize the YA industry or crash and burn. I'm so happy it's on fire in another way entierely. I'm looking forward to seeing more of these spunky young women on the book shelves and even seeing the Bellas of the world, in the midst of their angst, smack their Edwards and get to work!

      Delete
  2. While she's not a teen, there's no better heroine than Karen Allen's Marion in the Indiana Jones movies. She did a great job and your comments were interesting. My granddaughter loved The Hunger Games.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Definitely one of my favorite Indiana Jones leading ladies! There are strong women characters, not many of them, but they're there--I just love the fact that the YA genre is starting to recognize them.

      Delete
  3. Hi Rebecca,
    You really need a guy's perspective here also, since it has been a man's world for way too long. I'm totally against the idea that they are calling a Bold move in Sweden. Now children will no longer be called boys and girls in what seems like a dumb attempt to level the playing field - I GUESS? Now we probably will be calling them Thing 1 and Thing 2.

    This is not a new idea. It was tried many years ago, when they put children on an island together before they were told they had differences. At age 15 they were so confused over their place in the world (as they brought them back to normal civilization) that many of them committed suicide. OH Happy day??? So, here we go again!

    I enjoyed your treatment of the ladies here. I think they need more backbone too. By that I mean women are taken advantage of too often. Take the grease monkey who fixes her car, and she gets taken to the cleaners as he repairs something that wasn't even broken on her car. They are easy targets and part too quickly with their money. I've shown my own daughter a few things on our car so she has a heads up.

    I honor and have great respect for my wife of 42 years. She surprised me once and said she was going to China for a month with a couple other gals, raised the money, and did the deed. She is a business administrator, and has taken her place of work to new heights, almost singlehandedly. No Bella here!

    Where eagles fly,
    Don (Greywolf)
    Native American Storyteller
    Author of "Death & Taxes" at Amazon

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I got the shivers when I read about the non-gender nonsense in Denmark. We all need some sense of identity and male/female is one of the most basic identifiers. I admit, that there's sometimes not a lot to be desired about wearing the pink booties, but I have to admit I love being a girl and it's about time that we've started to see some authors really celebrate that.

      Delete
  4. I'm hoping to address the gentlemen in my next entry. I think deep down, we all have a damsel in distress. Most women I know let her wallow a bit, or tear up to get out of a traffic ticket, then stuff her back in the tower where she belongs. I am personally looking forward to the day when there are more Katnisses and Hermiones in the adult fiction world, but I have to admit there's no better place to start than with young adult fiction. Empower our girls and they will become the writers who create these character and the readers who demand them.

    ReplyDelete
  5. Wow, Rebecca... you are an amazing writer, I love your input and thoughts:) I agree with you, women should not be waiting around for her Prince Charming... we need to go about living our lives and being our heroines, that will attract the real men, not the fake ones.

    ReplyDelete
  6. Interesting take on females in fiction. I've always written strong women into my books - Tana Standish, psychic spy; Sister Rose, ex cop turned nun, for example. I recently enjoyed reading Robin Maxwell's version of Jane, the woman who loved Tarzan - a gutsy woman. Inspired by real-life adventuress Mary Kingsley.

    ReplyDelete

Post a Comment

Popular posts from this blog

Free for the Taking...Which Kind of Burns Me

Off the Deep End

Kicking the Muse