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Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Courtney Summers on Unlikeable Female Protagonists

The amazing Courtney Summers just wrote a great post "on unlikeable female protagonists", and I had to share a bit of it here (though you really must go read the whole thing).

Basically, when people responded to one of her novels saying they loved the guy protagonist, who was not exactly a sweetheart, but hated the girl protagonist, also not sweet (they couldn't connect with her, she was cold, etc), she started feeling... annoyed. Courtney says:

"I did a lot of navel-gazing soul-searching and I just kept getting annoyed because my thoughts decided to circle in this way: WHY DO GIRLS HAVE TO BE NICE ALL THE TIME THEY CAN BE MEAN AND ANGRY AND GENDER STEREOTYPING MUCH ARGH. Just. Like. That. I was bothered that the behaviours that are supported, loved, celebrated or romanticized in male characters would be, I thought, rejected in female characters because we have the perception that girls are sugar and spice and everything nice (er, not that I think wanting your significant other to DIE is an inherently male characteristic). "We are HARD on girls."

The whole post is fantastic, and it reminded me of this video clip I filmed of Libba Bray last year discussing something similar.

Let's let female characters be compelling -- must they always be likeable? Thoughts?


Martha Brockenbrough said...

I love what Courtney is saying. Her books are so memorable for the searing experiences their raw-edged main characters go through. Both ones I've read have really haunted me--and in a good way.

Melissa Walker said...

Agreed, Martha! I love Courtney's style and I think her characters are very honest.

Little Willow said...

Rock on, Courtney. I could go on for days here, so I'll try to be brief for now: I prefer when characters and stories are fully realized and feel real (even in fantasy/sci-fi stories) rather than being cliche and/or having an easy/happy/predictable ending. One of the roles I'm playing on stage right now is quite conflicted and so layered - I love playing this role. Love it. Love it. At first, she seems torn and broken, but then...is she? Is she truthful or not? Is she manipulative and aware of what she did and what she's doing, or is she just acting according to the rules of her experience? Why did she do what she did? I'll stop now, but my point is that I love layered characters, and I love truth, and I love well-told stories.

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