Female Antiheroes, Where Are You?

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My apologies for not getting a post up the past few weeks. Life exploded two weeks ago and I was exhausted when things finally calmed down and then last week I got quite sick and was not close to recovered by the weekend. But I’m back now!

A few weeks ago I came across a headline in the midst of my Facebook feed that I could not resist reading: “Difficult Women: How Sex and the City lost its good name,” mostly because the blurb contained the words “female anti-hero.” As many of my past posts can attest to, I am a huge fan of antiheroes.

While I can’t claim to be a Sex and the City fan, this article made a compelling case about how the show’s image has changed in pop culture since its creation; Nussbaum argues that it gets a bad rep because it was about women’s concerns, especially women who don’t fit the role model mould. I used to be a casual observer of the show so I don’t think the arguments presented are groundless. Reading Nussbaum’s article also made me realize there is a serious lack of female antiheroes on TV, in movies, and in books, yet male antiheroes are built up in our popular imagination.

I could easily come up with a list of male antiheroes but I am still struggling to think of any women who have hit the same level of notoriety as the men. And that makes me sad. Why do women always have to serve as some kind of moral compass? And if they don’t their lives are inevitably cut short in fairly unpleasant ways—just think of all the Disney villainess’s deaths, even compare them to their male counterparts’. And of course, as this article points out, if they are permitted to live full lives, the characters and their stories are degraded.

I’m certainly going to think about this article when I approach my own fiction. I have a tendency to write on each side of the spectrum, my women are either very “good” or very “bad.” I need to remember that full characters have to be a mix in order to be complex. And that just because my characters are female doesn’t mean they have to be the good one or grow into the good one in order to illustrate any kind of change.

What do you think?

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