Thursday, September 6, 2012

On females, their weapons and men in paranormal fiction

There is a trend in the new genre of paranormal fiction for females to wield weapons and impress others with their strength, not always physical. For those not in the know, most new additions to paranormal fiction are written by women for women just as fantasy fiction was taken over at one point by men writing for men. It is another wave of that sort that will slowly erode away only to reform into something else. So yes, the trend of women wielding weapons and being strong of character and sometimes actually physically strong is perfectly understandable. Every woman likes to be taken seriously and respected for their strengths so it is obvious that characters of the like appeal to a female audience.

What is interesting though, is that there is a bit of a divide going on between the weapons wielded by the young female characters and those by the older (not old just not teenage). In teenage paranormal fiction it is actually quite common for the female to wield the men with powers as their weapons rather than picking up a stake, knife (see what I did there :P), gun, crossbow, sword etc. The young females, of whom it is sometimes possible to call them women but mostly they are still girls, befriend of romantically entangle themselves with a man of werewolf, vampire, hunter or other paranormal or supernatural nature and when trouble hits they call for help and then send the men out to solve the problem. Granted, it isn't always written as such and is portrayed more as co-working or co-dependence or even being trusting and relying on someone. None of which are exactly bad but the message can easily be misinterpreted, especially when there aren't so many young females fighting their own battles whenever possible.

There is one version of this weak female lead that almost gives them power. And that is the version where they play the mastermind, the one openly calling the shots and being answered to rather than the one pulling strings and making puppets out of others by wielding emotions (I call such behaviour emotional blackmail and manipulation). With being able to call the shots is supposed to come power but such power is limited if you can't act on it yourself. As soon as anyone decides not to play along all the power fades away and the female is left to scream, cry and bewail the loss while begging for help. Such situations aren't always portrayed but they do appear often enough for dramatic purposes. I have little sympathy in such circumstances as I just want to see the character use her brain and pick up a weapon too.

Of course, there are young female supernaturals and paranormals who can hold their own but they run into the same old problems they had when human (if they were) and that is that despite the upgrade in strength and fighting skills they often remain weaker and less politically clued in than the men in the pack, flock, group or whatever. Young females newly introduced into a coven suffer the same problems but at the hands of older and more ferocious women and unfortunately for young coven members there aren't any men to go begging for help from.

Older unprepared women in fiction tend to go running for the nearest knife block to pick up the biggest, sharpest knife they can find (not always the best choice but that's another point entirely) rather than scream for help and get a man to save the day. At a pinch they might even have a gun about, a heavy frying pan or a mop that can be broken and used as a stake. Men of any paranormal or supernatural status tend to spring to mind after all these choices have run out. It is in the older unprepared women that you see what the average woman nowadays would do in such a situation. Doors would be boarded, the old softball bat pulled out from under the bed and the kitchen would instantly change from a place for cooking to a weapons stash. Not to mention the chemicals lying about the house, if they know how to use them. In the unprepared the everyday objects find new (or old) uses and that edge of practicality that we all love and respect in one another comes to the fore. Romance is out while manipulation of the man is pointless and too slow. Instead, give a woman a weapon and a place to defend herself from. Especially if she has to defend others.

It is from the older unprepared woman that we get the most go-ho weapons laden female characters from in paranormal fiction. The unprepared woman's dream as shit hits the fan is to have been prepared and to have better weapons and more of a clue as to just what is happening. So in paranormal fiction you find a lot of the older women have exactly that. They wield those knives, guns, swords, crossbows, wands, fangs, claws, fighting skills, knowledge and powers with great gusto and only some care as to the consequences. And of course, having someone to protect makes them just that little bit more dangerous again as will always be the case. Rarely do you find lady fighters who hold back. If the older woman doesn't initially pack a weapon or wield a power that will let her survive it isn't very long before she learns her lesson and does. Ladies don't remain ladylike in this manner. They might be polite and a little freer with their squeamishness but they will still pack poison, knives or a small gun to protect themselves and others and they don't exactly hesitate to use them. Meaning ladies are dangerous too so don't judge them when they're fretting over which hat, shoes or dress to wear.

The current divide in the choice of weaponry in the young and old is something of concern, at least as I see it. One sort teaches you to be co-dependant and reliant, which all seems well and good but when life gets extremely tough you need to know that you can stand on your own and fight on your own. Co-dependence and reliance are things to be found after sorting out just how strong and capable you are. Why? Because you can't protect anyone if you just rely on them and never do anything useful yourself. If you haven't found your own strength yet that just means you're still a child.

The other sort of life, where you only rely on yourself and never branch out to rely on others or work as a team with others, is also a tad worrying but not nearly as much as being a screamer. Being one to work solo is fine usually but everyone has their strengths and weaknesses so working as a team might help to cover some of those weaknesses and help make everyone less vulnerable. That's the essence of fighting in and as a pack. Humans are both solitary and pack animals. We need others now just as we always needed others. Yet there are some of us who prefer to be alone and can easily survive like that, once they've been brought up and gain the knowledge. But they are few and far between. In reality there are few who will work totally solo and disregard all help when its offered or even all that's produced by someone else (for the extremists). A solo heroine is, when looked at this way, completely unreasonable too.

But I will say this. I'd damn well prefer to be a prepared, weapons wielding woman or even an unprepared but practical one than a screamer. Screamers just end up dead or deeply regretting they didn't rely on themselves more. They are the teen female red shirts and writing or portraying them as teen heroines isn't a great idea. Encouraging foolishness and immaturity is how I see it. Such characters have a lot to learn and need to be shown actively learning it.

And I must say, I just cannot bring myself to respect an older woman acting like a teen screamer. At least run to the knife block. Then men aren't weapons, they're also ones to protect if you care about them.

No comments:

Post a Comment