literature

Princesses VS Rebellious Tomboys

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Princesses vs. Rebellious Tomboys



What’s to say?  There have been complaints about female characters, especially lead female characters, all over the feminine to masculine scale; however it’s mostly for the same reason: they can’t relate.

She’s so whiney and pathetic!  How can someone not have learned to stand up for themselves?

It’s probably because they never had to.  Parents have been known to coddle their darling daughters from harm in both the physical and verbal forms.  Some women have grown up thinking that whining about everything and running away will just magically solve their problem.  Let’s not even get into the possibility of this princess having rich parents who just buy whatever she wants willy-nilly without having her earn it.  Readers also don’t like spoiled princesses because reading about these characters almost feels like we threw our women’s rights and gender equality right out the window because she’s simply not strong enough; however, just because you feel this way, it doesn’t mean that there aren’t women like this.  There are.  Not everyone can be their own white knight in shining armor on horseback.

Then there are the anti-femininity tomboy types, and, yes, these women do exist in real life too, and, no, they aren’t all lesbians or feminist extremists.  Some probably grew up in a tough household where they needed to be the one to set up discipline, and the easiest way to enforce that is to be “the man” of the house.  Think of the oldest sister with seven younger brothers with parents that are incapable of enforcing rules in their household (due to alcoholism or drugs).  Or, maybe these women just find life easier playing the role of masculinity.  Think about it.  As long as you don’t pick unnecessary fights, you just look tough and people don’t usually argue.  Knowing how to be tough will also probably lessen the chances of being raped, assaulted, or overall hurt because you know how to defend yourself.

Other complaints about women characters are actually stuff I hear about real people, but in literature it’s stated differently.  The introverted studious student not interested in dating anyone or hanging out with friends every night of the week, who hardly ever smiles, doesn’t like boisterous activities such as dancing, but also hardly ever talks, usually just tells people that this person is antisocial and probably hates people, so to just leave her alone; although that might not be the case, but in fiction, it just translates to a boring character.  An extremely boring character.  This is not a fair assumption especially if this kind of character is only given a first impression.  Introverts may still get the bad reputation on occasion in the workplace, but in literature, it can get brutal because some people like living life to the fullest through characters.  If the characters don’t like “living life to the fullest” the reader can feel like the book is a waste of time and not buy into it.

But what if the story is just supposed to be a slice of life?  Nothing dramatic like saving the world, or something fantastical like dancing on thin air, has to be in a slice of life.  Slice of life is just the normal, every-day, kind of lessons learned, so why can’t a “boring” character be written about?  

This quiet and meek girl may start out that way, but maybe by the end of this slice of life she’ll show her sarcastic poison tongue and show people that this “boring” character shouldn’t be disrespected just because she doesn’t like the limelight.

Why aren’t I talking about guys in this chapter?  Aren’t there any complaints about guys?

Yes, but it’s only guys who have a feminine side, which I will get to in the next chapter because that is a whole separate issue, but otherwise, no, not really.  Whatever role a male character seems to play, hardly anyone has complaints.  Their personality and demeanor is just right.  

Oh, this guy is such a jerk!  He’s a villain, of course, and it’s a good thing he’s not very good-looking.

This guy doesn’t talk much, does he?  Oh, he’s probably just a shy sweetie-pie, waiting for a woman to make the first move.

The next door neighbor is so good with the plumbing, but not very bright.  Oh, who cares!  The descriptions that are written about this guy are so yummy that I just want to get in the sack with him!  Where is the sex scene?

It’s like whatever complaint that women have, it’s irredeemable, and anti-woman, but whatever guys have, or what stereotype the guys are, it doesn’t seem to matter much (as long as they are “hot”).

My overall point of this is that no matter what kind of character, not everyone will be appeased—there will always be complaints when it comes to main female characters; however, that doesn’t mean that there isn’t any hope.  The only advice I can give you is to flesh out the back-story.  Why is this female character a princess, a tomboy, or a simple boring person?  What was their childhood like?  How were they raised?  What were they taught?  What is their code of honor or ethics?  This way, even if a reader isn’t a princess, tomboy or boring, they’ll understand why this character is the way she is, and why she acts like this, and if they know this, they may continue with the story.

Don’t let the title and content fool you.  This actually goes with male characters too.  Their back-story is just as important as female characters, and for the same reason.
If you haven't, please read my Mary-Sue: Who is She? Series first.

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Griffonmender's avatar
Hmm, I, too appear to be much like the "boring" character (right down to the venomous tongue. XD)
   With all these types, a successful character depends on how you play them.
A well-developed character can be any of these basic archetypes.
Although the tomboy is the one most folks gravitate towards, without proper development they can become just as grating as most people assume the princess personality to be.
Not to mention that there's varying levels of princessyness-tomboyishness.

For example, there's literal princess Star Butterfly, who naturally has the floofy dress and the magic wand and the glittery rainbow magic- and goes and fights monsters with it. She's not totally tomboy, but she's not totally on the princess end either.
On definitely the tomboy end is Undyne, who'd you easily mistake for a guy if Monster Kid didn't keep going on about how awesome SHE is.
And on more of the Princessy end is Pacifica, who isn't everyone's favorite, who starts as a brat as a result of how she was raised but becomes less spoiled after character development.
(Granted, many people argue it's not realistic that she "got better" because "she has to "listen to her parents", but that's honestly bunk: kids disobey their parents occasionally, even good ones, and though teen rebellion isn't guaranteed, it happens.)

As for "boring" characters, they aren't REALLY boring: they're just those characters that don't hit one of the extremes.
And they actually hold a very important role: comparison. Because without a middle point, how do you tell the slightly spoiled from the truly bratty, or the less girly from pretty-much-a-guy? This also applies to other opposites, up to and including good versus evil.
So give your bg students, villagers, or whatever some development: the little guys deserve it.

And as for guys, I've actually found two who could have been left as "boring" characters, but weren't.
Grunkle Stan and Dad Universe could have both been left as irresponsible adult characters, providing only comic relief, but were both developed into interesting complex persons.

On a last note, setting and time period can affect the ratio of princess-to-tomboy-to-"boring".
Victorian England would lean more towards Princess due to the customs of the time(,which pretty much expected ladies to be cossetted and pampered whether they want it or not), while a post-apocalyptic wasteland would more likely leans towards Tomboy out of necessity. (Waiting for a prince to save you during a zombie apocalypse? Bad idea.)