Friday, November 22, 2013

Saving SF from strong female characters

John C. Wright explains the necessity of rescuing the genre from the curse of Pink SF:
A poet portraying the mating dance in fiction by the nature of the art must portray only the essential elements. This is why Romeo and Juliet do not have a long courtship: we have one balcony scene and a secret wedding soon thereafter.

If the essential element of the female side of courtship is discovering the man’s true character, then a book like PRIDE AND PREJUDICE, which is concerned with the misjudgment and the correction of misjudgment about a suitor’s character is the central theme, is the quintessential feminine book. Women, if they are feminine women, will be fascinated by a book such as this, as it will allow them in their imagination to play through the steps they themselves, if they are not to live as nuns, will go through, or which they went through as maidens.

Even if they were not at first more interested in love stories and the play of romance than little boys, a little girl should be encouraged by the cold logic of the circumstance in which she find herself to pay close attention to that one life-decision upon which so much of her happiness and success depends.

Girls who do not like love stories are well advised to learn to like them, because such stories deal with the essential and paramount realities on which much or most of that girl’s happiness in life will hinge.

Likewise, if the basic nature of the male side of courtship is overcoming obstacles between the suitor and the bride, then a book like A PRINCESS OF MARS is the quintessential masculine book. John Carter is so deeply in love with Deja Thoris that even death cannot hinder him, nor the wide uncrossed interrupt of interplanetary space, and he fights his way past men and monsters and Martians, red and green and yellow and black, all the way from the North Pole the South Pole in search of her, even though she is promised to another man.

These elements might strike a modern reader as offensive to the equality of women, particularly if the modern reader has been unwary enough to absorb modern ideas without examining them. This objection has always struck me as slightly comical. It is not the equality of the sexes that is at question in a story like A PRINCESS OF MARS. If memory serves, nearly every heroine of the several Barsoom books of Edgar Rice Burroughs and his many imitators is a princess. In other words, in such simple adventure stories the woman usually outranks the man. She is a princess and he is low born. He is in love not with an equal but with a superior, hence winning her heart is a more difficult victory, hence more satisfying a drama.

Likewise, on the distaff side of the equation, I note that the particular example I selected of an exemplary woman’s romance, PRIDE AND PREJUDICE, it is Elizabeth Bennet who is lower in status than the proud and handsome Mr Darcy. Equality is not a part of the mating dance: the drama of such girlish tales comes from the humble girl, the Cinderella, winning the high and aloof prince, and likewise the drama of boyish tale comes from the humble boy winning the heart of the princess.

In that most famous homage to sciffy serial adventure, namely STAR WARS, please notice that it was a princess who needed rescuing. While the space farmboy Luke is low class enough to be a proper suitor when he becomes imbued with magic powers as a psionic Warlock-Samurai, he is no longer low enough in rank to be a satisfying suitor, and the lovable space rogue Solo the Smuggler is selected instead. And Luke is not the brother of the space princess until the third movie, a plot twist needed to eliminate any possible romantic interest.

But perhaps it is not the inequality of rank between space princess and space rogue that concerns us here. The objection is that the space hero does the rescuing, his is the initiative and the action, and he gets to fly the spaceship through the palace wall, whereas the space princess is given no role but to languish in prison, perhaps wearing chains or perhaps wearing a silky harem outfit, and await rescue. The inequality is between the active versus the passive role.

I submit that this is not inequality, and more than Fred leading and Ginger following during a stirring waltz is inequality. It is complimentary. Those who object that men should not lead in the dance, whatever they say, are not friends of women; they just want to stop the joy of the dance.
There can be little doubt that those who preach equality in SF have badly damaged it. What they write isn't merely bad SF, it's simply bad literature, because it is quite literally based on lies. It is fiction that rings entirely false and entirely contrary to civilized norms. As Wright correctly notes, "introducing masculine traits to female characters does not make them strong, merely unrealistic to the point of dishonesty."

It's not an accident that this sort of nonsense is pushed by unattractive women and gamma males. The worthless nature and low self-esteem of the men and women who write Pink SF is readily apparent in this observation: "A woman perhaps will be offended at being portrayed as a prize; but none should be offended at being prized."

Can you imagine any heroic man wishing to bestir a finger to rescue the snarky shambling shoggoths of pink SF? He might do so out of human decency, but out of romantic inspiration? He'd rather have a beer with the villain.


Ron said...

"He'd rather have a beer with the villain"

So much truth in that one line

tz said...


Occasionally I find a bit ofmfiction so bad that I am rooting for the villian(s). Not only would I rather have a beer, I'd buyna round for the gang.

As to women, their strength is different, the two big virtues are virginity and motherhood. In Dune, Jessica protects her son Paul. There are queens like Catherine the Great and Elizabeth. But projecting feminism leads to a story that should end like that female marine. A very short story. You need witchcraft in some form for anything to work.The wizard of OZ, Alice in Wonderland, or the fariy tales have princesses, but they overcome evil by being virtuous, not fighting. The witches have sold their souls for enough power to be equal or above men.

Children were warned in their early years about feminism.

tz said...

I'm waiting for the story where the handsome prince is rescued from the snarky, shambling, shuggoths. It would mirror the curret culture. The news stories featued are the tragedies with unhappy endings where Darth Vanessa has taken the children and wealth and destroyes the home. With the help of emperor C. Protective Sithverices.

The CronoLink said...

Male pride... and if they can't achieve it, they will seek to destroy it...

Anonymous said...

I haven't read A Princess of Mars, but that description sounds awfully gamma too. In Star Wars, Luke is so gamma it's painful to watch. Many such "boy" stories involve a boy risking his life for a princess, sometimes one on a literal pedestal (tower), even though she doesn't know he exists. In the stories, his heroism and unwavering devotion win the heart of the princess, but we know it doesn't work that way. It seems to me these stories have a lot to answer for, after teaching a couple generations of boys that romantic conquest means mindless devotion and instant one-itis.

Duke of Earl said...

You really should read A Princess of Mars. Sure, the immortal John Carter is fighting for the love of a princess, but the operative word there is "fighting". By the time he finally ravishes his bride he's basically killed anything and anyone who got in his way, except when he's made friends with honourable masculine creatures who don't look human but have noble hearts.

What you learn from John Carter is to be calm, patient, honourable and polite, and if anyone crosses you you take their head.

Luke Skywalker can only dream of being as manly as the fighting Virginian.

Anonymous said...

Thanks, Duke, I'll check it out. I think the quandary remains, though: since we don't have many opportunities these days to take someone's head, that leaves being calm, patient, honorable, and polite -- traits every Nice Guy who can't get a date can exhibit in spades. If you have no opportunity to show the other, rougher side of manhood, then you have to imply it through your body language and frame, which means you can't let those falter at any moment.

The boy with gamma tendencies (whether from nature, nurture, or both) reads a story like that and thinks, "Okay, I have to fight for the love of my princess, and not give up no matter how much it might hurt me, even if she's with another. My dedication will win her heart." But there are no monsters between him and her, so fighting for her boils down to "ask her out," and not giving up turns into, "keep asking (begging) her after she says no thanks, and up the ante with gifts." He doesn't have any way to "fight" for her that will impress her, so if she wasn't impressed by him already, refusing to give up just turns him into an orbiter.

Like I said, I haven't read that book, so I'm not trying to read all that into this particular story. But I think the "saving the princess" genre in general, even the classics, tends to take boys down that path of pedestalization and one-itis, because modern circumstances have removed the monsters.

Duke of Earl said...

It's true that it was written in a different age (pre-WW1) when there was more opportunity for derring-do. I suppose that the modern world wouldn't be entirely comfortable with the image of barely clad men fighting with swords either.

Unlike the movie, which while not as terrible as some people say wasn't John Carter, John Carter was a supremely confident hero. Think the older traditions of the Southern gentleman. The narrator (ostensibly ERB himself, nephew to his Uncle John) describes him as charming the womenfolk on the occasions that the family met.

Anonymous said...

Those who object that men should not lead in the dance, whatever they say, are not friends of women; they just want to stop the joy of the dance.

Absolutely brilliant, and even better if you consider "dance" as a metaphor for marriage.

Anonymous said...

Perhaps a better example would be "A Fighting Man of Mars" also by ERB. The story concerns Tan Hadron of Hastor, a poor low-ranking officer who is in love with the beautiful and self-absorbed Sanoma Tora, daughter of a rich noble who ignores him since he is poor and without much social status.

When she is kidnapped Tan journeys across Mars and encounters and overcomes many obtstacles as he attempts to find her. This includes the rescue of Tavia an escaped slave. Tavia is portrayed as self-reliant and competent with weapons, witty and intelligent and as a loyal companion and helpmate. This is in contrast to the beautiful but arrogant and shallow Sanoma Tora, who ultimately shows herself unworthy of the hero. The book can be described as both a journey to conquer "onenitis" and to come to the realization of what qualities are most desireable in a mate. Tavia herself is revealed to be a princess at the end.

Anonymous said...

"introducing masculine traits to female characters does not make them strong, merely unrealistic to the point of dishonesty."

Melissa McCarthy's character in The Heat is a glaring example of this in the extreme. Granted it's meant to be gratuitous and over the top comedy, but her character is just a template for more subdued woman-as-man substitute.

Anonymous said...

Mindstar, from the cheap seats, I'll throw out John Cusack's Better Off Dead. Very similar romantic plot: boy loses hot girl when she hypergamously trades up for the school stud. Boy risks death in challenge against stud, hoping to win hot girl back, but in the process meets sweet girl, who turns out to be much better (and just as hot (and French!) once cleaned up) after all.

That's what I find most interesting, looking back at these formative sources from a red-pill perspective: there's actually a lot of red-pill truth in literature and entertainment, even the 80s "teen angst" flicks and such. Another random example: Weird Science. Why do the girls start warming up to the boys, who had been hapless geeks they wouldn't touch with a ten foot pole before then? Because the boys had a huge party with a house full of people -- social proof! But that's not obvious, because the boys also save their lives and their boyfriends turn into over-the-top jerkwads, so the gamma viewer says, "Aha! I need to be prepared to save her (do her homework; change her flat tire), and wait for her jerkwad boyfriend to drive her into my arms."

That's the thing: the red pill messages are there, but they're generally more subtle than the gamma fantasies, so if you're not more alpha by nature and you don't have someone pointing them out to you, you can miss them.

Anonymous said...

Is James Cameron a gamma? How do we explain Ripley and Sarah Connor?

Unknown said...

Funny thing: I have JUST revisited A Princess of Mars after a twenty or thirty year hiatus. One of the things I noticed right away that I missed in my adolescence is John Carter's descent into one-itis upon meeting Dejah Thoris. He immediately becomes oblivious to the half naked or entirely naked hot women all around him, many of them high-status and ALL of whom throw themselves at him, in pursuit of Dejah Thoris, who, incidentally, is always called by her full name.

Duke of Earl said...

It was twu luv?

Beefy Levinson said...

Alpha cads do best in periods of civilizational decline, when female hypergamy has been unleashed. John Carter was a Confederate veteran, formed in a time when men and women were able to fulfill their traditional roles more easily and there were more social checks on hypergamy's worst excesses. A 19th century Southern gentleman would probably be disgusted by alien jezebels hurling themselves at him.

Unknown said...

Re: Pride & Prejudice, Do bear in mind that the smart-mouthed, obnoxious Elizabeth Bennet was created by a woman who never married, having turned down the only proposal she had, at age 27.

Dupplin Muir said...

I don't know about James Cameron being a Gamma, but Joss Whedon certainly seems to be: he has a fetish for scrawny girls beating men up, and tries to suggest that this should be seen as normal.

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