Feminism. No! Don’t run away. Let me explain.
The term ‘feminism’ has evolved over the last few decades. Where once it was full of anger and seemed to pit man against woman, now it seems mostly to be a lot kinder. Simply, reminding the world that women can do just as good a job as men, and vice versa.
I have been reminded lately that it has joined the other Isms of Equality (race, culture, disability, etc) and is threatening to join health and safety in the realms of Political Correctness Gone Mad. What I mean is, my attention has been brought to stories that have a ‘token woman’.
Have you seen the Hobbit trailer for the Desolation of Smaug? It looks amazing, until Legolas and Tauriel appear. Why? Well, Legolas doesn’t appear in the novel, although as his father does so I can just about put up with it. Tauriel, however, is a completely new character. She’s been created to bring a bit of balance to a very male heavy story, not to mention a spot of romance (with Legolas and/or Kili if the rumours are to be believed).
It almost, almost puts me off seeing the film.
Female characters, as with male characters and all setting, plot points and words in a story, should be there for a reason. The reason should not be ‘to create romance’ or ‘so that women can relate to something’. Not only is it demeaning but if the character shouldn’t be there, it’ll show.
There is not one female character in The Hobbit and for me, as a young women and fantasy lover, this isn’t a problem. Yes, I love strong women, I always write about them and love reading about/watching them, but The Hobbit isn’t about strong women and that’s fine. It’s about men; it speaks of post-war England and male attitudes.
Female viewers can enjoy a film wholly involving men just as much as one that involves men and women.
I particularly hate characters being included for a romantic element. Just because we are women, doesn’t mean we need romance! If I want to see romance, I will watch a romantic film. When I watch a fantasy film, my mind isn’t particularly on romance. When I watch the Hobbit, I want adventure and gold and dragons, not romance.
On the other hand, Tauriel is leading the wood elf army, so hurray for women in authority! Unfortunately, the potential romance is with a prince, which requires the sick bucket to be brought back.
The Hobbit certainly isn’t the first, and won’t be the last, to receive this sort of treatment.
In 1997, someone decided it would be a good idea to give the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles a sister – Venus de Milo. Apparently, there were five turtle babies in the sewers that came into contact with the radioactive ooze, but that clumsy Splinter missed one when he gathered them up. When her adoptive father dies, she finds the turtles and emphasis is put on the fact that none of the turtles are related. Thus, paving the way for a romance between Venus and one of the boys (I doubt they ever considered a romance between two of the boys).
Where did I put that sick bucket…
Venus is different to our fab four. She hasn’t been trained in the art of Jujitsu, but she is a martial arts specialist so she can kick ass. Unfortunately, she’s rather unworldly and seems to have had a sheltered childhood. This gives the boys the upper hand, allowing them to ‘protect’ and ‘guide’ her.
Venus has since been deleted from the turtles’s history, although there are still clues to her existence. When the TMNT were sold, Venus was removed amid the message ‘no female turtles!’.
I love the turtles. I grew up on them, it’s the first thing my husband and I discovered we had in common. I certainly didn’t need a female turtle to relate to them, and I doubt an unworldly, female turtle who is so different from the boys would help to instil a sense of strength and equality in a young girl. It would be like suggesting that Bella Swan of Twilight fame could instil independence in young women and prove that they don’t need men to live a satisfying life.
Another example that really annoyed me was the introduction of Darby to the Winnie the Pooh franchise, although this isn’t quite the same. It is entirely feasible that Christopher Robin grew up and moved on. Much like Andy in Toy Story, bequeathing his beloved toys to a little girl (who has toy dinosaurs – I love her!). Darby is a little red-headed tomboy, which I can relate to, being a bit of a red-headed tomboy myself. Actually, my issue here is not with Darby. I like her. She’s brave and plucky and kind. It’s more the fact that the makers felt they needed to replace a boy with a girl, or that they needed to change the working formula at all.
So sometimes putting a female character into a story isn’t such a bad idea, if the other elements are done correctly. I can’t wait to see the Desolation of Smaug, but I do hope that Tauriel and Legolas don’t feature too heavily.
Are you looking forward to seeing Tauriel in the Hobbit? Or can you think of any other examples of politically correct female characters? I’d love to hear.