January 31, 2012

Imperfect Heroines

*The beautiful young woman is running as fast as her tight skirt and high heels will allow, but the monster is gaining. She trips, sprawls on the ground and screams just before the beast is upon her.

You roll your eyes and shake your head, saying, “If that was me, I would have kicked off my ridiculous shoes, ripped off that skirt and sprinted in my undies on bare feet across pointy rocks. No way would it catch me.”

Really? Because I’d be terrified. Monster victuals for sure, especially now that I’m older. Even if I dumped the shoes and went commando I’d start running and my hip would go out or I’d be so scared I’d run smack into a pole or something. Bong! Monster chow.

*The pretty teen is severely depressed after breaking up with her boyfriend. She stares out the window as the seasons go by, apathetic and pathetic.

You roll your eyes and shake your head, saying, “If that was me, I’d get right back in the saddle and find me a man who didn’t suck.”

Um, okay. Everyone handles grief in their own way. You go out and find yourself a rebound cowboy and ride into the sunset. I might need more time to bounce back. Others might benefit from a handful or two of Prozac.

*The bookish but attractive-behind-her-glasses girl is the constant butt of the local cheerleader’s jokes. It’s obvious the girl will get even by the end of the book, but you roll your eyes and shake your head, wondering why she waits so long to get her revenge.

“If that was me, I would have kicked that skank’s skinny behind the first time she dissed me.”

Alright, sure. Because some of us don’t cringe at the very thought of physical confrontation. Personally, I was forced into a fight or two in my youth and unless you have some kind of training, let me point out that you may be at a disadvantage to your opponent.

In the examples above, the first girl was overcome by terror, the second girl was overcome by sadness and the third girl was, well, smart. All normal reactions, right? So, why are you so uptight about it? The main female character isn’t perfect, isn’t flawless. So what? Prove me wrong here, but is anyone? Is it wrong for a character to fall short of being a role model for our daughters? Normal girls make mistakes, say stupid things on occasion and their motivation can be selfish.

I’ve seen one too many book reviews where the reviewer commits character assassination – giving low ratings because they didn’t like the main character’s attitude or the choices they made.

Don’t get me wrong, I like reading stories with a good, strong heroine just like the next person. But it’s not a requirement, and frankly, a few flaws tossed in here and there will make the character seem more believable to me. We all whine, we all rant, we all get pimples. Very few of us pee perfume and poop Hershey bars (and I don’t want to read about the character who does)!  ;o)


  1. Wow, I'm amazed there are no comments on this wonderful post. I was buried with edits or I would have commented sooner. This really spoke to me in many ways: this is something that I've pondered and pondered. I've even written my own blog posts about the subject. I want a heroine I can identify with and believe in. The whole absolutely perfect, larger than life cannot be harmed female heroine doesn't do it for me. In one of my upcoming books my heroine is a mess: she makes some huge mistakes and some really stupid choices. Hopefully I have written it in such a way that the reader will understand why. But what I have worried about is that they might discard her/judge her/dismiss her/ because she is not that stereotypical "Lara Croft" character. I hope that doesn't happen. It's great to see someone else, and a writer I respect so much, is thinking along the same lines!

  2. There will be the odd reader who will take exception to your imperfect heroine - it's a given that some readers simply cannot forgive a character for not making the same choices they (think they) would have. It strikes me as a knee-jerk reaction - a judgementalness that usually (hopefully) goes away with maturity. There's a lot of emphasis on political correctness out there; that 'I wouldn't want my daughter to equate with this foolish character' kind of thinking. But as a mother, I know from experience that we can TELL our daughters and show by example HOW we want our daughters to behave, but they won't truly understand until they learn from their own mistakes. It's perfectly fine for them to aspire to be like Lara Croft, but it's also essential that they accept their own and others' imperfections.