Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Reminder: Girls Need Characters Too

In case you had forgotten over the past five years of increasingly focused coverage, the female populace in entertainment is still not only inordinately small, but more often than not skewed towards the spectrum of the vapid, pointless love interest or the sexy, pointless femme fatale, with little room in between. I think it's pretty common knowledge by now that it's an issue, and I'm not really saying anything too shocking or unique.

I did, however, want to bring up an example of why girls need good characters too, and how it's actually something that matters.

So I'm leaving The Avengers a couple of weeks ago, and it was awesome, but that's beside the point. Point is, I'm walking behind this family. A mother, a son, and a young girl about eight or nine. The family is chatting about the movie, and at one point the girl turns to her mother with a big smile on her face and goes:

"Do you know who the best Avenger is?"

"Who?" says the mom.

Now recall this is a movie with a technological genius flying around in superweapon, a super-soldier with an indestructible shield, a green behemoth that cannot be killed, and Samuel L. Jackson.

"Black Widow," says the girl. "She's awesome."


I thought I'd share this because it speaks to the methods of idenitifiability, of connection between people and characters. Black Widow is not, objectively, the most "awesome" of the Avengers. Not in the typical way. She has no powers other than a quick wit and martial arts. But this girl identified with her above all the others in the movie. Why? Because Black Widow is a woman, and more importantly, a strong, independent, competent and confident woman.

This is a pseudo-follow up to my previous post about the importance of good YA lit, but like I said in the post, we forget how a world looks to a child, how hard it is to handle the complexity of the world they're thrust into. An adult saying a character was her favorite just because she's a woman might come under some criticism in the adult world of political correctness and fairness above all else, even common sense. But to a child? A child is going to see someone like them. Who looks like them, talks like them acts like them. And they are going to identify with them. It's why people who don't understand why young black children need from black role models miss the point entirely. It's not that young black kids can't see a white person as a role model. It's just that, from the viewpoint of a child, an older black person is simply going to have more in common with them. Remember: children have not yet grown the ability to interpret complexity that you and I have. Such a facet of their lives must be nourished--and the only way to nourish it is the have a foundation to build upon. A young girl identifying with Black Widow can learn about bravery, courage, intelligence, wit, and even that it's okay to be afraid.

But that fear can't hold you back.

 And from that foundation can a deeper understanding of the complexity and intricacies of the world be built. We all have to start somewhere, and children are more apt to start off with someone with which they can readily identify.

So in case everyone's forgotten over the past couple of days: this push to get more female main characters and minority main characters is not just a bunch of PC bellyaching. It matters. Because kids are in a wild world of insanity, and they need something to grasp onto. And the easiest thing to grasp onto is someone like them.

Until next time,

Mr. E

Oh, and:


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