The perfect female protagonist

The perfect female protagonist

I often (probably too often for my husband's taste) complain about female representation in film and in movies. Mad Max = Good. Jurassic World = Bad. Sometimes it's difficult for me to articulate what constitutes positive and negative portrayals of women. Sometimes it's hard to talk about what I want without asking writers and directors to resort to tokenism.

(I think the best explanation for why other people and I keep harping on this and keep having this conversation came from the /Filmcast in which they discussed the movie Jurassic World, so listen to that if you want to truly get it. What it amounts to is that, when we complain, it's only to draw attention to the subject of diversity. We're not saying you *should* make all your characters female (or Asian or black or Hispanic or...). We're just pointing out whenever there's yet another cast full of white dudes doing stuff and being heroes and trying to explain why it doesn't necessarily have to be that way.)

Anyway. I recently read a novel whose main character was the perfect depiction of a female character. She did everything right, feminism-wise. She chose herself. She didn't slut-shame, even though she herself wasn't DTF. She wanted more from life than just a man. She saw the other side of every argument and didn't even reject those who were rejecting her. She was stoic, thoughtful perfection.

And it was so boring.

Everything about the main character seemed calculated to tick all the right boxes: "If this were any other book, here's where they'd expect her to go gaga for the nice boy-next-door, but let's not do that because FEMINISM" or "In the past the main character would've had THOUGHTS about her friend's promiscuity (especially considering premarital boning was a big no-no for the MC), but we're all SEX POSITIVE all the time now" or "Here's where she'd be an actual petulant teenager, but we're subverting that stereotype." Her only flaw was believing (wrongly) that she was flawed. Which sounds kind of compelling to me now, but wasn't so exciting to read in novel form.

It was as if this protagonist had been computer generated by a political correctness machine.

Though I liked a lot of things about the book, especially the premise, I felt very conflicted after I finished it, like, this is what I've been asking for. This is what we've been asking for, especially in young adult books. We want acceptance. We want diversity. We want positive portrayals of women. But positive doesn't mean sanitized.

Not all women are perfect, just as not all men are perfect. Sometimes we choose the guy, even when we know we should be focusing on ourselves. Sometimes we think bad thoughts about the people around us because we're dealing with our own shit. And we make mistakes and we get through it. It was part of the reason I loved Girl on the Train so much. The main character in that book was a real living, breathing human. She was a hot mess, sure, but she was trying to overcome that. She was trying to figure out her life.

And that's what it's about, right? When we engage in a story,we want it to be about people who are flawed but trying to be better, who make mistakes and try to learn from them. When the character's already reached perfection, what do they have to learn from the story and, by proxy, what do we?

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