|"Sin City" |
When I began my own writing journey, I had no doubt in my mind that I would have a teenage heroine. An understandable assumption of an inspiration would be hits like “Buffy” and as a fan of Whedon’s work, I won’t argue. Little kick-behind girls like my character Shevata have been used and continue to be used in a variety of action stories.
Going back to non-fiction historical text, a young girl marked the books named Joan of Arc. As a non-historian as well as not being there, I’ll hold back remarks of the penalty given to her. But, regardless of opinion, she’s famous for bravery, and if she didn’t make an impression, I suspect she wouldn’t be conversation today. While I’m not convinced Joan of Arc is the primary inspiration for young action female characters, her history speaks for itself and is worthy of remembrance.
Where have we seen young heroines in fictional classics? The reflex answer is “Alice in Wonderland” by Lewis Carroll. As kids, we remember the little cakes making her big and small, some of us recall the music of the rock group “Jefferson Airplane,” and we Burton fans know the recent film with over-the-top effects that made “Wonderland” wonderful in its own weird way.
Why do young girls make fun action characters? Answer: The obvious is their appearance of not being dangerous and the gratuitous unveiling of their abilities brings out our “rooting for the underdog” part of us for protagonists. As I’ve written before about protagonists, generally we like beauty and benevolence, while drawn into mystery that power from unexpected sources (like kids) brings us. Girls usually have a soft spot somewhere (romance, loss) that reels them back into humanity enough so audiences can still keep a sympathetic hold on them (as would apply to any protagonist, but clearly with girls). I do realize some of my readers are still looking for Shevata’s soft spot.
I’ve seen the criticisms of little girl action heroes as well. The obvious is: How can a fifty-pound girl drop a two hundred pound guy by kicking him? I don’t argue with that, other than it’s fiction. Also, to be fair to our gentleman friends, they have a point: Try taking martial arts and take down a heavyweight boxer. Good luck. I have much respect for all disciplines and the expertise in weapons was created for a good reason. But the element of surprise is very important in physical combat and its exaggerated use in stories and films adds to the fast-moving elements.
Bad little girls are not new in fiction, and I don’t think are going anywhere. They’re tried, true, fun, and hardly the only option out of the endless great choices for creating stories. But that’s what makes reading so great, sometimes a less conventional hero than the knight-in-shining armor packs a punch big enough to mow down the bad guys in short order. There’s nothing wrong with that, as long as the last girl is standing it’s fine with me.