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Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Storyteller’s Rulebook #144: Women Shouldn’t Have To Have It All

Both John Carter and Green Lantern shared a big flaw with Attack of the Clones: the love interest who has six stressful jobs but still wants to spend all of her time soothing, scolding or smooching the hero. 
  • As I pointed out here, Natalie Portman in AOTC is a queen and a senator and handy with a laser pistol, but she really just wants to hang out with her psychopathic boyfriend. 
  • Lynn Collins in John Carter is a scientist, a princess and a warrior, but when she meets her very first space alien in a chaotic mid-air collision, she’s already flirting like crazy by the time they hit the ground.   
  • 23 year old Blake Lively in Green Lantern is the CEO of an Aviation company, and a superstar test pilot (these were two separate characters in the comics that were combined into one), but she spends every night throwing herself at her douchebag ex-boyfriend, despite the fact that he’s doing everything he can to wreck her company, literally and figuratively.  
“So what?”, you may ask.  “Who says women can’t have it all?  Why can’t they bring home the bacon, fry it up in a pan, and still never ever let him forget he’s a man?”  Well, okay, they can…but they shouldn’t have to.  You would never have a male character that’s a flirty scientist-warrior.  It’s a bizarre agglomeration of traits. 

Of course, these writers’ hearts may be in the right place…They don’t want a love interest that’s just a love interest, and they don’t want her to be useless in the action scenes for fear of presenting a bad role-model. But the real reason that they’re piling all these roles onto the female lead is that they desperately want to avoid having any other female characters in the movie. 

If you want to say that “women can be anything”, that’s great, but the way to show that is to have multiple women doing multiple things, not to have one woman do everything. 

I hate to keep going back to Superman, but in the Superman comics I read as a kid, he had lots of positive female characters in his life: the love of his life was a tough investigative reporter, but he also worked with a kick-ass lesbian police lieutenant and had a platonic partnership with an even more kick-ass Amazon princess. 
That’s the way to do it.  If you combined all of these women into one character, who was all those things but still selflessly devoted herself to soothing Superman’s tortured brow every night, then that would be pretty damn silly. 

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