Friday, February 21, 2014

The Most Obnoxious Character in Fantasy

What do you think is the most obnoxious character trope or cliche...specifically in fantasies? Is it the half-elf, half-dwarf, half-dragon, half-whatever character who is so unique and one-of-a-kind that he inevitably becomes the hero of the novel? Or is is the maniacal, cackling Dark Lord who needs to brush his teeth and cut his nails? Or, perhaps, is it the quirky comic relief that for some reason is always a different race than the hero?

For me? It's the warrior princess.

Everyone seems surprised when I tell them this. "Oh! You seemed like the type of person to like a strong female character!"

Why yes. Yes, I do like strong female character. I don't like masculine female characters, especially if they are supposed to be the protagonist.

We all know what I'm talking about. The warrior princess is incredibly beautiful, but obviously in an intense, harsh way. And odds are, she hates being beautiful. Creates too much attention from those weakling, sappy men. She'd rather strap on her unrealistically form-fitting armor and go hack some mindless beast apart and then wear the bloodied pelt home while gnawing on the charred remains of its brain. Dresses and ribbons are beneath her and she sneers at the perky, helpless princess who enjoys such paltry wastes of cloth. If there is a man in her life, he is probably the fantasy equivalent of a nerd who stays at the castle and has political meetings while she defends her kingdom.

Okay, so this might be slightly exaggerated. But only slightly.

Sadly, this is becoming common in fiction literature. With all the feminist propaganda in the media now, I'm shocked this trope has not been eradicated as the offensive lie it is. I'm surprised men have not been more offended by it as well. Not only for the usually derogatory way a male character is portrayed when this type of character takes center-stage, but also for the false definitions on what true strength is.

Allow me to explain. First, where did this trope come from?

I think it grew out of the cultural movement that showed distaste for the damsel in distress well it should have. Not all females are weak and helpless and need to rely on a male hero to save them. But the pendulum swung the other direction, and writers began creating the warrior princess.

Simple enough to explain. But why should women be offended?

Women ought to be offended because it implies that the only way to be a strong female is to act like a stupid, violent jock. It implies that women cannot be both feminine and strong, sweet and firm, fun-loving and smart. If women are to be taken seriously, they must act like a man.

But then, this isn't even how men ought to act! Why should men be offended by this stereotype? They should be offended because this implies how, not only how "strong" women are, but how "strong" everybody is. It implies that all men ought to be brutish warriors who fear nothing and are cold and ruthless and mysterious. It completely misinterprets everything that makes a strong man. Courage is not the same as recklessness. Strength does not mean how large your biceps are. And kindness, humility, humor, friendliness, and truthfulness? They are nowhere to be seen, along with many, many other admirable character traits.

This trope is born from a lack of knowledge of what makes a strong woman, what it truly means to be a man, and zero imagination. This character isn't even realistic, I don't care how tragic the backstory!

I do have to thank this trope for one thing: it forced me to dig deeper into my character's background and personality. Ember originally was beginning to look like this, so I quickly had to reevaluate her.  I'm happy with where she is now: she's sassy, fiery, strong-willed, and bratty. She can throw an ax and she is athletic thanks to spending most of her life outside and in a harsh environment. Yet, she gets excited when her hair in tangle-less and she can run her hands through it (that's a Kaycee-ism I gave her...). She likes new clothes. And she respects and loves the strong men in her life. I don't mean strong in the warrior princess way, but in a Biblical way.

Coal is not super athletic, though he can certainly hold his own in a fight. He never wavers in his faith in Elethor, and his determination to lead Ember to Him. He's kind and friendly. But he has his flaws, like everyone. He constantly fights hatred towards his enemies. He forces himself to be patient with Ember. He's a real human being who is trying as hard as he can. That's a real man to me.

Hail is the strongest physically of the trio, being a warrior, it makes sense. He relies on force and cunning in battle more than he does argument and debate, like Coal. I wouldn't say he's as clever as Coal is, but he's sensible and smart in his own ways. He struggles to find his faith, and he also tries to hide his past behind a mask of good deeds. He's way more flawed than Coal, but in my opinion, he's just as strong a man.

I don't have an issue with women being warriors in stories. I have an issue with them acting ridiculously "masculine". Eowyn is one of my favorite characters because she didn't go to war so she could kill things. She went to war because she felt like she could protect and honor Rohan best by fighting. Eowyn wears dresses, has long hair, and fully accepts the role of a Daughter of Kings even though she does not particularly like it. In the end, she falls in love and gets married. They move to Fangorn forest where they care for the Ents and live happily ever after. I love that. She and Faramir no doubt had many awesome adventures together, and she never gave up her femininity to do them.

I write for middle-schoolers. I think it's awesome if people older than 11-14 enjoy 'Ember Flame', but they're not really my priority. I purposefully make my themes and personalities a little "obvious" so it's easy for middle-schoolers to grasp without treating them like children. I need them to see that they can be who they are and still be strong. Girls don't need to act like "men" to be taken seriously. Feminism is a trait God gave women and yes, some women are more feminine than others. But no matter how feminine you are, it's not something to hide or be ashamed of. And boys don't need to be athletic to be strong. They don't even need to be cocky, mysterious, or book-smart. All they need is to follow Christ with all their heart and strive to obey His will. That goes for girls too.

The warrior princess is a sad demonstration on how warped society's view of women and strength currently is. Hopefully, people will realize how wrong this thought is and will stop creating masculine females. Do y'all have any opinions on the 'warrior princess'? I'd love to hear 'em! :)


  1. Good post.
    I often find myself unimpressed with both the damsel in distress and the warrior princess.

    1. Yes, the damsel in distress is rather annoying too, isn't she? I'm glad people realized this! Hopefully, the same realization will happen regarding the warrior princess and we can move past it. :)

  2. BEAUTIFULLY SAID!!!!! *claps* Well said indeed! I am grateful that there are more people out here addressing this issue, it's so sadly abused and certainly does nothing for a woman's image.

    1. Thank you so much! I'm glad you liked it!

      Just went and checked out 'Annabeth's War'. I added it to my 'To-Read' list. It looks totally epic! The synopsis is very intriguing, kinda reminds me of Joan of Arc, and the cover is gorgeous. I can't wait to read it! :)

    2. Aw! Thanks Kaycee! Your book came across my radar not too long ago when someone mention our books in the same blog post and it really intrigued me so I had to "hunt" you down. Your book is also on my to read list. I hope you enjoy Annabeth's War when you get a chance to read it. It's kind of Joan of Arc meets Robin Hood. God really blessed me with my cover artist, he's really talented.

  3. Replies
    1. May I just take this moment to say I LOVE how you completely avoided this issue in 'King's Warrior'? I know I've said it before, but Kamarie is beyond awesome. I guess she takes after her author. ;)

    2. LOL Kamarie is drawn from a lot of my personality. Uncomfortable when all dressed up, a little awkward (more klutzy than I've ever been... but I often feel far less graceful than I actually appear), and likes to ride horses/climb trees, enamored with the idea of attaining "honor and glory" in combat... but eventually grows up and realizes that she is perfectly comfortable with her role in life and who she was created to be, and that, as Brant teaches her, "There is no honor in killing." (Of course, all while still loving to climb the occasional tree)! :) haha

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  5. This is a really good article Kaycee! I am definitely with you on girls being feminine is not a bad thing. Its nice to have a strong female, but trying to do everything a man does isn’t real strength.

    Btw, I read "Ember’s Flame." Very much enjoyed it. Can’t wait to read “Hail Frost” and “Flake Frost.”
    Ruth Newton :D

    1. Very, very true! That's an excellent point. I find it odd when I see T-shirts and bumper stickers say things like "Women can do everything a man can do, just in heels". It strikes me as rather silly. In the post, I didn't really make the point that women can't do everything a man can do so I'm glad you brought it up here! God gave the two genders different strengths and weaknesses. I wish more people would be willing to accept that.

      Thank you so much! I'm so glad you enjoyed it! ^_^ You have no idea how happy it makes me to hear that. :)

  6. wow, this is an incredible post, Kaycee. I first saw the notification at GR and almost commented there, but I prefer commenting on the actual blogs. :)
    Have you read "It's (Not That) Complicated" by Anna Sofia and Elizabeth Botkin? If not, you should really read it. They express several of the same ideas in that book as you express here. :)

    I also don't like the 'warrior princess', and I think that the prototype of a strong woman in today's society comes from the feminist ideas - along with the stupid, wimpy male in the story. At the other end of the spectrum, I don't know any one who honestly appreciates the damsel in distress, especially since that, in my experience, doesn't come with a male who is realistic. And I'm personally more inclined to be like your description of Ember anyway. ;) Or Jessica Greyson's Annabeth, or maybe Molly's Evangeline's Makilien.... the list goes on...

    Now I really want to read Ember Flame. I should have argued with Rose about who got to read it for Future Homeschool Authors. ;)

    1. Thank you! I am so very happy that I'm not the only one! I was afraid I would offend a bunch of people by posting this, but I posted it anyway because it felt dishonest not to. I cannot describe how overwhelmed and happy I am to find that there are so many who feel the same way about the warrior princess!

      I have not read "It's (Not That) Complicated", but the title is awesome and it sounds cool. I shall add it to my 'To-Read' list! :)

      That's a very good point. The damsel-in-distress often does come with either a flat male character or an unattainable, perfect prince. It's really no wonder the stereotype died out.

      Thanks! It was so much fun being on the Future Homeschool Authors blog! I jumped around and squealed after I saw the kind review Rose gave me. If you ever read 'Ember Flame', I certainly hope you enjoy it since you have all be so awesome. :)