Thursday, March 19, 2009

Heroines: They've Grown Up

When I first started writing, I heard a lot about how heroines have changed over the years to reflect society. Today's heroines tend to be bolder, sassier, more independent, career women, etc.

The other night I felt horrible so I popped in an old favorite: The Goonies.

I know it's a kid's movie, but I started to get annoyed with the heroine. In my opinion, the heroine's sidekick deserved heroine status. Sidekick is bold, strong and compassionate (held her weeping heroine friend). Not like the true heroine, who squeals when bats fly through her hair (okay, I know we would all scream, but she did more. She went into hysterics!). The heroine seems weak in every way, while her friend is a bit mouthy but strong. The friend is the kind of heroine I don't mind rooting for.

What qualities do you look for in a heroine?

32 comments:

Jody Hedlund said...

It is a sign of our modern times that we expect our heroines to be strong in a physical sort of way.

In the recent Disney Prince Caspian movie, Susan fights in the battles. But in the book she doesn't and Aslan tells her the fighting is for the men. C.S. Lewis wrote the book at a time when women weren't yet allowed in the armed forces. But modern movie makers had to make Susan appealing to modern women.

We too, have to appeal to our readers, right? We live in a time when women want to be strong and equal to men. Somehow our heroines have to reflect this.

Jessica said...

Well said, Jody! I didn't know that about Susan.
I was born in the 80s and so I guess it's rooted deep in me that a heroine should be strong in most ways. I know that's not how real life is, and I also want my heroines to be vulnerable. It's a strange mix. I just couldn't believe how annoyed I felt. It was funny.

Kristen Painter said...

I don't mind a heroine who doesn't know everything. I like one who show vulnerability and a weakness or two. Faults make the characters real.

Jessica said...

Very true. I guess that heroine's faults were overwhelming me. LOL

Eileen Astels Watson said...

This is timely. I was actually reading 1Peter yesterday and when he refers to the wife as the "weaker" one it kind of got my hair standing on end. Back in those days women submitted so much more to their husbands--the total dependence was their life.

Today, with duo-income families, careers for both men and women, we women have evolved so to speak to want to be equals to the husband.

But if I'm to be honest, I love that my husband is stronger than me. I worry that he bears many more burdens than I do, but I'm greatful he does, too.

I guess I like my heroines to strive to be the best they can be, the strongest they can be, but I still like when I see them submitting to the hero--seeking his help and counsel. To me, I still like the hero being the strongest.

Now a wimpy heroine...that's not so desirable, I agree.

Janna Qualman said...

I like her to be relatable, that is, "normal" in the way we all are, with imperfections and idiosynchracies. But I also like her to be strong, or to wind up that way, maybe in a way I'm not.

Irritable Mother said...

I like strong character in a heroine, and compassion. Definitely compassion.
A sense of humor is nice, too, but I don't think a heroine should be mouthy at all.

Debra E Marvin said...

Great question, Jessica. And I love the Goonies. My children probably know most of the words by heart (they're in their late twenties, early thirties).

One thought came to me - if we all have "strong" heroines . . . will they start to be a class of Stepfords? I think I can handle a weak heroine if she's growing through it; if she has a deep well of emotions to show us. I agree it's hard to like an annoying simpering heroine but as Janna said, relatable, normal.

I watched Washington Square last night with Jennifer Jason Leigh. What a complex heroine. Her weaknesses made her compelling and she grew throughout. Fascinating characterization.

Terri Tiffany said...

I agree with Janna-- I want her to be normal too but strong and at the same time emotional enough to get it and grow.

Kathryn Magendie said...

I watched that with my brother Tommy in the hospt! one of his faves, too - and I really liked it... :)

Angie Ledbetter said...

Maybe between the two Goonie heroines, they made one complete, 3D female MCs? :) I like strong, quirky, sarcastic in my female leads. Kinda like my friends. LOL

Cindy said...

Goonies--yay! That is so my generation. As far as heroines, I love a heroine who is strong but better is the heroine who STRENGTHENS throughout the novel. One who begins with faults, with vulnerabilities and maybe even a sassy attitude :) Because these are the heroines I love to root for. Give them sparks of humor and intelligence but underdog status and I want to see them succeed! It makes me want to finish the book simply to celebrate their victory.

Jessica said...

Hey Eileen,
Don't get me wrong. :-) I LOVE the man to be stronger in certain ways. I think it's the wimpy thing that got my dander up. I don't mind a gentle heroine at all. Sometimes it's stronger to be gentle, you know?

Jessica said...

Janna, good point. Relatable is a great way to put it.

Jessica said...

Aha! LOL Karen. You're right. Strong character is good, and there's so many different ways to show it.

Jessica said...

Hey Debra,
I've never heard of that show/movie with Leigh. I'll bet there are some ways she's strong. The growing is pivotal. If the character grows and changes, the reader will forgive a lot.

Jessica said...

Hey Terri,
Normal is good. LOL

Jessica said...

Kathryn, I was sick when I was watching it and I still cracked up laughing. It's an awesome movie. I was shocked when hubby said he's never seen it.

Jessica said...

Hey Angie,
Those sound like great qualities! And fun to read. :-)

Susan J. Reinhardt said...

Hi Jess -

The character you described sounds melodramatic and over the top. I like my heroines real. She seems more of a stereotype.

Blessings,
Susan :)

Jessica said...

Underdog heroines, awesome concept! I'm with you Cindy, and all of you really.

Jessica said...

Susan, now that I think about it, I think you're exactly right! She isn't really the heroine of the story, just the crush interest of one of the MC's. Good point.

T. Anne said...

I like strong yet vulnerable, some light hearted humor with a normal level of insecurities. I like someone realatable not too whimpy.

I was on vacation a few years ago and every night we had to walk a distance to get back to our home. There were bats everywhere. I'm sure I could have out screamed the girl from the goonies if one landed in my hair. I held my hands over my head all the way home! LOL.

Debra E Marvin said...

Jessica,
Washington Square is based on a Henry James novel so it's a period piece. I'd recommend it.

Gosh I love netflix.

This was a good topic.

I'm wondering if you could discuss 'author intrusion' one of these days.

Jessica said...

LOL T. Anne! I have long hair. After I read what I wrote I had to amend things because OF COURSE any normal female would scream *grin*

Jessica said...

So netflix is good? I've never used it because I'm a dinosaur and I'm paranoid. But you like it, huh? I guess it would be easier than having to run to movie galler.

You know, I feel like I just read something about author intrusion and I'm trying to remember where. Hmmmm, great suggestion. Thanks for giving me something else to post about! :-) Sometimes I run out of ideas.

jessie said...

I feel the same way when I go back and watch movies I once thought were great. As you grow older, heroines change in your eyes. But you're right, it's also a sign of the times. Heroines are stronger now. However, if you go back really far, you find a different kind of heroine. I know they have to be REAL for me to relate again, but I also like the heroines that make me think "She is such a GOOD person. I want to be just like her." Examples: Amelia in Vanity Fair, Molly in Wives and Daughters, Anne in Persuasion, Beth in Little Women.

Jen said...

I love it when the heroine is a strong character, but I also love it when she has to ask for help. Shoot, any protagonist. They can't be perfect!
Although if the heroine just sits back and lets the hero fix everything, it's sort of...boring. That's why I love Mulan so much. She's strong and take-charge. She doesn't need a prince charming, no siree.
I think my favorite example of this is Eve Dallas from the In Death books by JD Robb. She's strong and tough, but she also gets burned out and has to go to her husband for help. It's a perfect mix.

Very awesome blog. I'll be reading.

Jessica said...

Hi Jessie,
Oh, yeah, Beth was definitely a good character. I wanted to be like Jo though. LOL Probably because I'm so different than her. You're right. Our tastes do change.

Jessica said...

Thanks Jen!
I agree. The heroine has to at least try to save herself. It's always fun when she ends up saving the hero too. LOL
I've read tons of Nora Roberts books, but never her JD Robb series. Interesting.

John Roundtree said...

Hey, Jessica!

Saw your link on MuseTracks and wanted to pop over to check it out. What a great blogspace you have here. And love your comments on Heroines! Very true.

John

Jessica said...

Hi John,
Thanks for coming by. :-) You write a great heroine, if I remember correctly. :-)