How To Write Female Characters That Please Feminists

Looks like Joss Whedon was punished for not writing Black Widow in the way that feminists would approve of.

When it comes to writing female characters, the same rules apply as when writing male characters. It’s not extra hard. A female character can be good or bad, strong or weak. Just don’t make her boring or wooden.

It only seems extra hard, because writers allow themselves to worry about what the PC police will say. When you start worrying about that, you invite extra writers into your head, leading to the “too many cooks in the kitchen” effect. As a result, you will have a political tool, not a living, breathing character. And then it’s no wonder it’s not good.

And therefore, I think the key to pleasing feminists is to ignore them, forget them, and let your creativity flow.

http://edition.cnn.com/…/yang-joss-whedon-femini…/index.html
http://www.breitbart.com/…/avengers-director-joss-whedon-i…/

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26 Responses to How To Write Female Characters That Please Feminists

  1. Liz says:

    I agree, Emma…but I think there’s also a profit motive, and that’s the main concern for most writers. That’s how their bread gets buttered, after all. They won’t be able to keep writing if people aren’t buying. Apparently “strong independent women” are the ‘thing’ now. Look at Divergent. Complete piece of crap, badly written. Women make up the majority of the fiction-reading market now so those are (generally) the ones the writers (who desire to make a living writing) attempt to appeal to.

    • Liz says:

      I’ve heard this first hand from a friend who is a published author (and makes a very good living at it). That’s the advice he gave me. I didn’t really follow it, feminists will probably absolutely hate my character, but I’m just having fun with it and hoping for the best and I don’t have to worry about earning a living that way.

      • Same here 🙂 I have nothing to lose. To me, it seems many people produce their best stuff when they work with a shoestring budget and their own wild imagination.

    • Is bringing politics into your story actually profitable? I understand all sorts of trash might bring in money. But so does Twilight, 50 shades of grey and other stuff that’s not feminist. If money was all you cared about, you could exploit men’s desire for mindless action and women’s desire for mindless romance. Get people through their base instincts 🙂

      But I suppose big Hollywood productions might have their own politics. They used to blacklist people for communism in the past. Now it might be something else.

    • Matthew Chiglinsky says:

      The funny thing about the TV show “Buffy The Vampire Slayer”, which as far as I know is the reason Joss Whedon is famous at all, is that the original movie version of the concept was an ironic comedy. The idea of a blonde girly girl going around killing vampires is ludicrous. It made a mockery of feminism.

      But then the TV show by Joss took itself much more seriously. Joss Whedon was basically a male feminist for several years of making hat show, even featuring an ongoing lesbian romance between two of the supporting characters (Willow and her girlfriend). To think that he wouldn’t still be pandering to feminism is a surprise.

  2. CUCH says:

    Most feminists won’t be happy until all female characters are Katniss Everdeen. Katniss is great, don’t get me wrong, but I don’t want every female character I encounter in every book, film and TV series to be her.

  3. David Foster says:

    I wrote about a rather similar case, this one involving the move “Gone Girl,” in my post Life in the Fully Politicized Society, Continued:

    http://chicagoboyz.net/archives/46442.html

    • Liz says:

      That’s an interesting writeup, David Foster. I kind of agree with some of the commentors about “unlikeable characters”. If a character doesn’t appeal to me from the beginning, I won’t continue reading. But I also agree with Dowd about “succombing to the niceness plague”.

  4. Liz says:

    Emma: “Actually, now that I think about it, I think you’re onto something. I do like hateable characters, and stories where jerks fight each other and get their comuppance, but sometimes it doesn’t work. I’m not sure what makes the difference.”

    I think (if we’re speaking of main characters and not just tangential superficial ones) there has to be some depth of character development before the reader decides to “hate” the character. You have to understand, at least to a point, why he or she is acting the way they are. If the character turns the reader off immediately they’re unlikely to keep reading. We have lots of competition these days for our time and few want to choose to waste their waking hours on bad entertainment. All dark, no light is a bad formula.

    The most believable villains usually have some understandable motivation. If it’s a main character (particularly a first person narrative) that’s really important, IMO. Dexter did this well (at least, in the first two novels, the third was awful and I never bought another in the series). That was a pretty genius antihero formula.

  5. Liz says:

    I liked Mulholland Drive, too! 🙂
    Another thought…sorry to ramble on like this, but this is a subject that really interests me, especially now that I’ve taken to writing fiction (for my own amusement and hopefully the amusement of others)…
    Although allegories make for very interesting reading, if the reader perceives he or she is being subjected to a lecture it fails. Allegories have to be kind of organic…best case they make the reader realize there’s a lesson there, almost at the end. This requires such a nuance it almost has to be accidental. Watership Down is the best example I can think of (about rabbits no less!). Richard Adams claims it was not even his intention to write an allegory or metaphor for humanity, but it ended up being one of the best ones ever. Ayn Rand was a lecturer, but even so the characters were developed enough to “work” (though not nearly as well). Most lectures don’t work at all. People will drop the book that they open and immediately shouts at them, “This is the bad guy, GET IT?” and “This is a bad way to think/thing to do/way to be…get it?”
    It’s not easy, painting a realistic and compelling villain that draws readers in rather than turning them off has a finesse to it.
    Anyway…going out for breakfast! Hope you have a good day (or evening, if it’s evening on that side of the pond). 🙂

    • No, you can go on as much as you like about this, since it’s a topic that interests me as well 🙂

      I agree – no one wants to have an obvious moral shoved in their face. Ayn Rand pulled it off, but she’s probably an exception. Now I’m worried about this, because my story does have a moral. Hopefully, characters and their adventures will come across as more important, and people won’t feel lectured to. Main goal of my story is to be entertaining, but I can’t help but inject stuff that feels important to me.

  6. David Foster says:

    IMO, Ayn Rand’s most successful novel in terms of realistic characterization is her first: We The Living…based in part on personal experiences in Russia/Soviet Union and with the ideological superstructure less fully-developed. There is a very good movie based on the novel…made, oddly enough, in Fascist Italy. (The censors passed it because it was anti-Communist, then recalled it because they belatedly realized that it was also anti-Totalitarian in general)

    • David Foster says:

      One other interesting thing about We The Living book & movie: in the book, Kira’s great love Leo comes across to me as pretty much a jerk who, if the story was real, would be a strong positive example for the women-are-turned-on-by-jerks hypothesis. In the movie, Leo as played by Rossano Brazzi comes across as much more likeable, even though I don’t think the dialogue was changed *at all*.

  7. Matthew Chiglinsky says:

    Most female superheroes are feminist. I haven’t seen the movie, but unless Black Widow gets pregnant and makes dinner for her husband, she’s kind a feminist.

    • Depends on how you define feminist. I don’t like to narrowly define characters by politics. I don’t like when feminists call a movie “misogynist” while judging by some arbitrary standard, and I don’t like the opposite either. I don’t like how politics make us all humorless bores who can’t enjoy a movie. Unless the movie really IS preachy, but the first Avengers was not. I suspect the second movie is the same, despite Joss Whedon’s political opinions.

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  9. Andrew says:

    Why on earth would anyone try to please feminists?

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