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Why do fans focus on male characters over the female ones. - Me myself and I
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liliaeth
liliaeth
Why do fans focus on male characters over the female ones.
What is it about fandom, that even in a show with a strong female lead character that people still seem to prefer focusing on the male characters over the female lead?



I've gotten into reading Hunger Games fanfic lately and it's noticeable that aside of the part where most of its fanfic (at least the bit that gets posted on ff.net) seems to suck, and not in the good way, (I honestly can't read a single oc-centric mess anymore, they all suck that much), that the rest of it almost always seem to focus more on the male perspective than on the female one. (there's exceptions of course, thankfully, but still...)

Are we so trained to see stories from the male perspective that when a story is set from the female perspective that it ... bothers us, that fandom can't handle it and quickly changes things so they can go back to the male perspective?

Don't get me wrong, I love Peeta and Gale and Finnick and Haymitch and Cinna and...

But I love Katniss more. I love that she's not just your typical girly or action girl character. She's a full fledged flawed but kind, heroic but damaged character with more than three dimensions to her personality.

So when I was reading 'Mark Reads' reviews of the Hunger Games, it bothered me that he kept saying that Katniss had no depth of personality. It felt like he basically dismissed half the story that gave her that depth. (of course he also way too often acts as if any chapter that focused on character development rather than on fighting, was boring. (his overly focus on a love triangle (even if only in the negative way) that's only a minor part of the story didn't help either. Because well... it's once again all about the male characters. When Peeta and Gale show up, all he and the commenters on his journal seem to focus on, is either the love interest angle or what effect Katniss' actions have on the male. Rather than on the actual focus of those scenes, aka what they say about Katniss, who she is, what she feels, ...They don't seem to notice that it's not about whether or not Katniss is in love with Peeta or Gale, but about what it's like to have to play act a romance to an audience. What it's like to be stuck in this game where she has to kill people and then using or hiding her emotions so that she might survive. And yet these same complainers claim that Collins isn't subtle enough while at the same time they keep missing half the actual story that's there.

And I think a big part of that is because they just don't know what to do with the female perspective outside of a love story. To them, Katniss should be all about Peeta and/or Gale, making them the focus of the story, from her perspective. And Collins just isn't giving them that story, so they say the love triangle is badly done, while not realizing what she's actually doing, aka putting the focus back where it belongs, on Katniss.

Hell I like Cinna, I think he's a fascinating char, but where's all the stories about Effie, who's even more fascinating? Cinna in the end is just a heroic guy stuck in a bad situation, trying to save children by creating beauty so that they might find sponsors while secretly working for the rebels.

Effie on the other hand is just... why does she do the work she does. Is she just stupid, does she care, does she even realize what she's a part of? She's not simple, cause it's clear, she's not a bad person. Yet she's just so interestingly self centered in a way that makes me wonder what she has to do to keep herself so ignorant.

I love Finnick, damaged beauty and all, but I'm even more fascinated with Johanna, who it seems was given the same offer that Finnick was and didn't give in to it. Losing everyone she loved because of it.

I like Haymitch, but what about Mags, who knew she couldn't possibly survive the games, yet sacrificed herself to save Annie? Or what about Annie herself, so broken, so damaged...

Gale's fun enough, but I find Madge so much more interesting, with her lost aunt and her attempt to be friendly to Katniss.

Or hell, President Snow is diabolical, but what about President Coin. And her utter pragmatism. On the side of good, or just in it for her own sake to be the one in power?

Hell where's the stories about Octavia, about Prim, about Katniss and Prim's mother, ...

There's just so many strong female characters in the books that it hurts to see so many of them most often ignored or only focused on in a love interest capacity.

It's like with Buffy, I loved Spike, but it's weird how much fanfic removes Buffy from the main character role and makes her no more than a supporting character in the males story, even when she's part of the main pairing of the fic.

I love Andrea and Lori from the Walking Dead, yet so much more of the fic seems to focus on Rick and Glenn (not that I mind Glenn fic, he's my fave too, but honestly, much as I like Daryl, I really wish we got more Glenn fic that is about more than pairing him with Daryl), and Shane and Daryl.

It's like no matter how strong the female chars in a story are, fandom always much more instantly seems to focus in on the males.

And before people start saying something, I always felt Ruby was a more interesting char than Castiel, even if I do love both. And I wish we had more fics that focused on Ellen, and that didn't just pair her with any of the Winchesters or Bobby, but that just focus on Ellen as Ellen, or as Jo's mother. And I know it's hard, we have so much more of a connection to Sam and Dean, so it's hard to reach outside of that, but is it really that hard to write female characters as characters first and as love interest second? I honestly feel that much of the hate against Jo isn't against her as a character, but as a potential love interest. Cause she really is interesting as a character. So what if she doesn't start out as this great hunter? She's not supposed to be, that's part of her character arc. (I see the same of this with Andrea from TWD, people complaining that she isn't bad ass right off... she's not supposed to be, she grows stronger as the story moves on, that's what being a full fledged character rather than a one note action girl is about)

Hell, it's the biggest issue with ASM these days. Female characters are no longer allowed to be characters, they're either bitches, screws or love interests. Someone like Carlie Cooper doesn't seem to exist outside of being Peter's love interest. All her abilities are informed rather than shown. (or you know, given at the expense of making Peter look stupid, rather than just letting Carlie do something right)

Compare this to a Joy Mercado, Betty Brant, hell even Felicia and I don't like Felicia...

Because the problem with BND is that it's the 'fans' who are in charge, aka the male silver age fans, the ones who are writing bad fanfic because they couldn't stand to see these female characters that were more than just background filler or prizes to be obtained.

Somehow though, it pisses me off even more when it's the female fans doing it, than the male ones, because 'we' should know better. Unfortunately we seem to be programmed not to, and that's a damn shame.

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just_ruth From: just_ruth Date: December 26th, 2010 08:05 am (UTC) (Link)
No arguement here! In fact it was one of the major factors in my discouragement with SPN that Ellen and Jo were sacrificed in a way that was true to both their characters and the first post I read was
"Hurray the bitches are dead!"
liliaeth From: liliaeth Date: December 26th, 2010 08:19 am (UTC) (Link)
thank God I didn't see that one.

It's noticeable though how many people suddenly liked Jo, once she turned down Dean. As if her crush somehow made her a worse character. While in reality, it just made her ... young. She was a kid and getting a crush on the guy who reminded her of her dad probably had a lot to do with that.

What annoyed me even more was the reaction to Anna's death. Especially the icons. Suddenly (or not so suddenly in some cases) turning Anna into a bad guy. While in reality, her plan didn't make her evil. She just thought that killing two people to prevent the death of millions might be a good idea. And she wasn't entirely wrong about that.

And don't even get me started on the reactions to Ruby's death. Or you know, the response to Crowley in comparison to Ruby. I liked Crowley well enough, but I never saw him as a good guy, not even remotely. Yet if fanfic was to be believed, then the was halfway a good guy already. Whereas those same people would never have given Ruby that same chance.

Edited at 2010-12-26 11:27 am (UTC)
lilacsigil From: lilacsigil Date: December 26th, 2010 08:36 am (UTC) (Link)
Not just fandom, though - in our misogynistic society, men's stories/lives/existence is considered more important than women's. Unfortunately, it can be difficult and painful to cast off this mindset and lots of people choose not to do so. I think the "I only like strong women - but I don't like *that* woman, she's just a man with boobs" mindset is part of that. There's no perfect woman, so they don't have to pay attention to any woman.
liliaeth From: liliaeth Date: December 26th, 2010 08:41 am (UTC) (Link)
Even worse than that, when they can't find a flaw in a female character, she' suddenly called a Mary Sue. Because hey, no woman could be that good, right?
melusinahp From: melusinahp Date: December 26th, 2010 02:29 pm (UTC) (Link)
Here from a link on themockingjay. I agree with you so much. Thank you for writing this. Plus you've made me even more glad I gave up on reading Mark Reads Hunger Games in disgust early on.
liliaeth From: liliaeth Date: December 26th, 2010 02:35 pm (UTC) (Link)
Hell, I like Mark, I really do, but I seriously do think he misses a big part of the story, because he's so focussed on the similarity with Battle Royale that he completely misses the point of what the Hunger Games is about.

And I am really sick and tired of all the complaining about the love triangle. (more from the commenters than from Mark himself)
90scartoonman From: 90scartoonman Date: December 26th, 2010 03:00 pm (UTC) (Link)
It's like the TVTrope, "Most Writers Are Male". I'm sure many of them do find it difficult to write from a female perspective. Add to that a lot of fans are male, and it's, unfortunately, more comfortable.

And when a male writer does a poor job writing a female? It's not pretty.
liliaeth From: liliaeth Date: December 26th, 2010 03:14 pm (UTC) (Link)
It just often feels like they're not even trying. And the worst part is that they don't even realize it.

Oddly enough, the old writers didn't seem to have as much of a problem with it. Maybe in part because Peter was married, so they had to think outside the box, they couldn't just go for the will they won't they clichés storywriting wise, they had to write female characters with more purpose than being a potential love interest. Once they removed the marriage, for most of them that also removed any need to them to actually write women as characters, rather than as potential prizes.
steamshovelmama From: steamshovelmama Date: December 26th, 2010 03:03 pm (UTC) (Link)
Here via Mockingjay:

Word!

It's something that seems to overshadow fandoms generally - and the slash element compounds the whole thing. As female fans we seem to have some sort of vague jealousy about female characters, to be suspicious of them. We seem to be more - I don't know, maternal, almost? towards the men. We see their flaws as somehow sweet and adorable. Female flaws? We flame them and trash talk he characters. I don't know why this happens but it does bother me.
liliaeth From: liliaeth Date: December 26th, 2010 03:18 pm (UTC) (Link)
Exactly. I just hate how often female actresses get called bad actresses, while acting at a similar quality as many of the beloved male actors who get admired, regardless of their actual talent or lack of such same.
shirley From: shirley Date: December 26th, 2010 03:41 pm (UTC) (Link)
Got here through Mockingjay as well.

I agree with you on the focus given to male characters in most fandoms. In Fushigi Yuugi, I was bombarded with Nuriko and Tasuki. In Harry Potter, Severus Snape and Sirius Black. In Lord of the Rings, Legolas and Aragorn. In Twilight, Jacob Black is all over the place.

Thank you very much for writing this. Just inspired me to work harder on my original series, which is written from the perspective of a female protagonist :-)
liliaeth From: liliaeth Date: December 26th, 2010 04:02 pm (UTC) (Link)
I can't think of many fandoms where this doesn't happen, where the fans actually focus as much on the female chars as they do on the male ones.

the only one that comes close is Smallville, and I often feel that Chloe centric fics are less about Chloe, and more about turning Chloe into a self insert that they can pair up with whomever they want. But then again, I tend to think the same thing about Xander centric fics in Buffy fandom.
(Deleted comment)
liliaeth From: liliaeth Date: December 26th, 2010 04:04 pm (UTC) (Link)
oh I agree on Finnick. It's actually a very interesting thing that Collins does with several of her male characters.

Peeta, Cinna, Finnick... they all have stereotypical female roles and characters, rather than the typical male ones.

Both Finnick and Johanna are seen (almost) naked, yet there's much more titillation involved with Finnick's nudity then there is with Johanna. With is a reversal of the usual way these kind of things are dealt with.
lls_mutant From: lls_mutant Date: December 26th, 2010 03:57 pm (UTC) (Link)
Also here from themockingjay.

I can understand a lack of Katniss fic, or at least her perspective. Don't get me wrong, I adore Katniss. But depending on what kind of fic you want to write, because of the POV Collins chose to use, there aren't as many story opportunities for Katniss, whereas we haven't seen Peeta or Gale's perspectives on so many events.

However, I definitely agree about other females in fic. I haven't read a lot of Hunger Games fic (not sure I want to dive into another fandom), but yeah- those are names I haven't seen much of in the summaries. I'd really like to see more of Coin, actually. She was just fascinating, just as ruthless in her ways as Snow. (I'd also love to see crossover fic with BSG where Coin and Roslin talk, but....)

liliaeth From: liliaeth Date: December 26th, 2010 04:12 pm (UTC) (Link)
Yep, it's not that I don't understand the need to explore the side characters. Especially since Collins wrote so many of them that are just as fascinating as Katniss is.

But most of the ones I've seen tend to focus on the men. Not that those men aren't interesting, they are...

But it's just odd how few fics there are that focus on the female chars as anything other than a love interest to one of the males.

The closest I've seen to an Effie fic, was an Effie/Haymitch fic, which admittedly is good so far. But I'd much rather see something focusing on her childhood and how she came to be the person she is, like there are plenty of with Cinna, rather than just stories that pair her up with a beloved male char.

As for President Coin, I find her fascinating. So much of what she does can be classified as good, yet when you take a closer look, all of it actually is also pretty self serving. Like Katniss says at the end of Mockingjay when she visits Snow, Coin even set in a tradition of how ex-presidents are supposed to be treated, just to be safe for if she ever fell out of grace with the people.

She saves the people of Panem, yet at the same time, she probably caused the death of innocent children, plus her own medics, just to make sure that she was the one to beat Snow and to make him lose any and all last remaining support.

I actually wouldn't mind seeing a Hunger Games/Doctor Who crossover if I have to be entirely honest.
cleo_eurydike From: cleo_eurydike Date: December 26th, 2010 04:23 pm (UTC) (Link)
I do think that Katniss gets an unfair rap, which hurts me, because I love her and find her compelling, but I also wonder if that's not just a thing that happens to main characters, especially ones in the narrative first person. Their woes, which may take a long time to get over, end up seeming repetitive to the reader (and unfortunately, that she's in a love triangle, which is a stereotype of the female romance genre, and that puts people off immediately).

I don't know about all of your comparisons, though. I have seen fic for Katniss's mother, and for Prim, for Madge and Johanna, and Maysilee even (which boggles me because she's only in the text for like, 4 paragraphs) - a fair amount of the ladies, Hazelle and Greasy Sae among them. And I think that Haymitch gets more attention than Mags because he's a main character in three books, whereas Mags only appears briefly in one. Coin is also extremely impersonal, whereas Snow is more theatrical, which might make him more fun to write for some people. Madge doesn't make it to book 3, and barely gets a speaking role (which I was sad for generally, but I don't know if that was an editorial choice, and how that went down). And Effie, honestly, doesn't interest me; I was so turned off to her emotionally, and I don't know if that has to do with gender. Now, I love me some Octavia, but for the dearth of fic for her, there isn't exactly a bunch of Flavius fic canceling her out (on the flip, I have seen Tigris reappear in stories).

Obviously I'm speaking from personal experience, not as a representative of Fandom At Large but I honestly see some of these things as a matter of exposure in the text more than of a misogynistic fanbase. And maybe it's just that I confine myself to a particular sector of the fanbase that is unique in not having these problems.
liliaeth From: liliaeth Date: December 26th, 2010 04:30 pm (UTC) (Link)
I admittedly haven't read too much Hunger Games fanfic yet, mostly cause I was going crazy after only two pages of crap on the ff.net Hunger Games page. So my exposure might not be as large as I'd like.

I guess it's just one fandom too many where all the focus is on the male chars instead of the female ones*g*

PS: is there really any reason why so many fics on the ff.net page start asking people to write up char descriptions of tributes, before writing their fic, seriously... It's gotten to the point that I won't even open a fic asking people to offer their tributes. If the writer has that little focus on their own story, then it's generally not worth reading.
chokethewind From: chokethewind Date: December 26th, 2010 06:07 pm (UTC) (Link)
Here from a link on themockingjay and I just want to agree with everything you say about THG books, and also about The Walking Dead. Katniss's treatment in this fandom is something that incredibly disappoints me, and the lack of concern about the girls The Walking Dead does the same thing. I wish more people realized this.
sandoz_iscariot From: sandoz_iscariot Date: December 26th, 2010 06:53 pm (UTC) (Link)
What I really liked about Katniss was that she was given qualities that very few female heroes (especially in YA lit) are allowed to have. She's able to be at times ruthless or cold or manipulative and she's still The Hero of the series (as opposed to an anti-hero or shady supporting character). Whereas male heroes are allowed to have those qualities and be called clever and deep and Machiavellian (and not "bitchy"). So for me Katniss has a really interesting and fresh perspective and it's disappointing to see her dismissed or overlooked. I think the above poster who mentioned the genre hits a particular mark: society already tells us that the male POV is the default and that female perspectives/narratives aren't important, and when you mix that with a genre that rarely has a female protagonist...some people really don't know what to do with a character like Katniss, so they fall back on the old sexist standbys of defining her in terms of her love life or rewiring the narrative in their mind so that Peeta or Gale or Haymitch is more important character.

And I'm continually baffled by the way some readers focus on the love triangle; it seemed like such a small, ultimately inconsequential part of the series to me.
liliaeth From: liliaeth Date: December 27th, 2010 05:04 pm (UTC) (Link)
I think it's a necessity for a strong character, that they're allowed to be flawed, yet still remain heroic at the same time. And it's just such a rare thing for a female char to be, esp. those that are the protagonist of their story.
callmeonetrack From: callmeonetrack Date: December 26th, 2010 07:12 pm (UTC) (Link)
Here from Mockingjay

I agree that fanfic/fandom in general is often very male-focused (as is life, I guess), but I think w/r/t Hunger Games, I tend to agree more with Hulamoth and LLS_mutant above. I think most of the page time in the series, aside from Katniss, is given to the men. Effie is practically a throwaway part, she shows up so infrequently and is given so little depth. As opposed to Cinna and Finnick who are written with largely sympathetic portrayls of heroics/charm etc.

Although personally, I think aside from Katniss, no one in the books is particularly well defined, and in the end, neither was Katniss. [In that, she ended up being nothing more than stuck in the PTSD prompted by the hunger games/war/prim's death and ceased to have actual wants and desires of her own in the way Collins wrote it.] It's a bit curious.

Myself, I became a huge fan of Johanna in the third book. :) I'd love to see more fic from her POV. (I keep saying I want someone to write a crossover of post-MJ Johanna and Leah Clearwater from Twilight series grousing about playing second fiddle to their lame-ass heroines. ;)

Oh and I do have a fic rec that you might enjoy. This is a wonderful collection of fic snippets about many of the secondary characters in the book including Johanna, Coin, Cressida, Venia, Prim, Delly and Annie: Panem, mid-August.
liliaeth From: liliaeth Date: December 27th, 2010 04:59 pm (UTC) (Link)
Hmm, I wouldn't say that the men get more depth. We see about as much of Effie as we see of Cinna. We just see them portrayed in different ways. Same with Johanna vs Finnick. It's just that we're more used to recognizing that depth with male characters.
fauxkaren From: fauxkaren Date: December 26th, 2010 10:36 pm (UTC) (Link)
THIS IS A GOOD POST AND YOU SHOULD FEEL GOOD. lol. I'm came over here from themockingjay, and this post just hits on so many things that bothers me about THG fandom.

It's like no matter how strong the female chars in a story are, fandom always much more instantly seems to focus in on the males.
This is the truth. Fandom does not treat its female characters well. I recently wrote a post about the use of the term "Mary Sue" and why I loathe it because I really think that it exemplifies the issues that fandom has with its women. I have a ton to say in response to this entry, so I'm going to try to break it down into sections.

First, I wanted to talk about Mark Reads The Hunger Games. I don't blame him too much for not "getting it" because, honestly, I didn't either my first time reading the series. The first time through I was so sucked into the plot and wanting to know what would happen next that it was all I cared about. It wasn't until my second read through that I really got was Collins was doing with Katniss and all the characters. I do think that some of the commenters who have read the books before are a bit worthy of eye rolls though. But that doesn't keep me from leaving comments (under the name Karen) in which I DO try to bring the discussion to more thoughtful levels of analysis (and ok, I do stan for Peeta in my comments too. lol).

I've gotten into reading Hunger Games fanfic lately and it's noticeable that aside of the part where most of its fanfic (at least the bit that gets posted on ff.net) seems to suck, and not in the good way,

LOL. This is SO true. I've found a couple of good fics, but dear sweet Lord. There is so much awful fic for THG.

Now moving on to actually discussing the character in THG. I'm not gonna front. Peeta is my favorite character. But Katniss is a close second. She's a wonderful character.

But I love Katniss more. I love that she's not just your typical girly or action girl character. She's a full fledged flawed but kind, heroic but damaged character with more than three dimensions to her personality.
EXACTLY. Katniss is a really complex character and the books (especially the third one) are really more of a thorough exploration of her psyche than anything else. It's all about the damage that the Capitol has done to her and her struggles. It's about how she overcomes it in some ways and how she is damaged in others.

I love that Katniss is so flawed. She's not a typical female character in that they tend to be either fully Bad Ass or Gentle Girls. Katniss is somewhere in between. She can take care of herself, but at the same time, she's always stronger when she has someone to help her. She is eternally pragmatic and fail at understanding and expressing emotions, but from her relationships with Peeta and Prim, it's obvious that she does feel very deeply.

And I think a big part of that is because they just don't know what to do with the female perspective outside of a love story. To them, Katniss should be all about Peeta and/or Gale, making them the focus of the story, from her perspective. And Collins just isn't giving them that story, so they say the love triangle is badly done, while not realizing what she's actually doing, aka putting the focus back where it belongs, on Katniss.
OH MY GOD. I AGREE WITH THIS SO FUCKING MUCH. To be honest, the fandom makes the Gale/Katniss/Peeta stuff more of a love triangle than it actually is. It's pretty damn obvious from a third of the way through Catching Fire where Katniss's real emotions and feelings lie. But it's not about Katniss's ~choice~. It's about Katniss sorting out her emotions and dealing with what is real and what has been manipulated by the capitol. It's about freedom of choice and what Gale and Peeta represent to Katniss in terms of the rebellion and the Capitol's manipulations.
liliaeth From: liliaeth Date: December 27th, 2010 04:58 pm (UTC) (Link)
I think it's a problem with the way he's reading the book. The Hunger Games just aren't read well a chapter a day.

One bit about the reason why Gale is included is not to form a love triangle, but to make it clear that her choice is taken away.

If the story had just had Peeta and Gale wasn't there, then the reader would be wondering why it's such a big thing that she might have to marry Peeta, since she does really like him.

But it's because she also knows Gale, that we know her choice, her freedom is taken away. And sure, Collins could have made Peeta a bad guy to make it easy to see that the whole possibly having to marry someone who isn't her choice, is a bad thing. But she's not that bad an author. Because it's not about who she has to marry, but about her freedom to have that choice.

Gale isn't there just as the other choice, but to stand for all her other options that the Capitol is taking away from her. He pretty much stands for her freedom.
shipperx From: shipperx Date: December 26th, 2010 11:46 pm (UTC) (Link)
So when I was reading 'Mark Reads' reviews of the Hunger Games, it bothered me that he kept saying that Katniss had no depth of personality. It felt like he basically dismissed half the story that gave her that depth. (of course he also way too often acts as if any chapter that focused on character development rather than on fighting, was boring. (his overly focus on a love triangle (even if only in the negative way) that's only a minor part of the story didn't help either.

I had this issue with "Mark Reads" as well. Still some of his reactions were funny so I read the whole thing, but he seemed allergic to the more quiet moments that gave Katniss depth and... I don't know... resistant to Katniss as damaged, strong, reticent female heroine.

They don't seem to notice that it's not about whether or not Katniss is in love with Peeta or Gale, but about what it's like to have to play act a romance to an audience. What it's like to be stuck in this game where she has to kill people and then using or hiding her emotions so that she might survive.

Exactly! I sort of wanted to complain that for someone complaining that it's not subtle enough, that he was missing one of the major points!

Edited at 2010-12-27 02:49 am (UTC)
liliaeth From: liliaeth Date: December 27th, 2010 04:32 pm (UTC) (Link)
I think I got spoiled by his Harry Potter reviews. I just really wish he'd start looking beyond the love triangle.
angel_gidget From: angel_gidget Date: December 27th, 2010 12:56 am (UTC) (Link)
I can't help but also wonder if part of it may be that there is often a focus on romance when you're viewing a story through a fandom lens. Since fandom tends to be made up largely of straight females, they often gravitate fic-wise to the characters that intrigue them on a romantic level. If a fangirl thinks Cinna has a sexy mind, she might be more partial to reading/writing his backstory rather than getting a glimpse of Mrs. Everdeen's thoughts behind the scenes.
liliaeth From: liliaeth Date: December 27th, 2010 04:31 pm (UTC) (Link)
True, which becomes even worse when dealing with a TV or movie fandom. Because hotness is apparently more important than proper characterization.
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