Why Kick-Ass Heroines Need to Exist

Are you waiting for Prince Charming to come rescue you from your common life? Why? Do you need to be rescued?

We have raised generations of girls who think this way, and I’ll admit that after being raised on Disney stories about princesses being rescued from whatever fate held them back, I was one of those girls. At least I didn’t go around trying to kiss frogs.

Alas, after severe disappointment in relationships, I am single in my mid-40s, but I’m okay with that. I’d rather be happy and single than married and miserable. Disclaimer: I’m not saying true love doesn’t exist. It does. I’ve witnessed it. If you’re happy with your significant other, that’s awesome. I’ve also been in love…truly and unconditionally, so my life hasn’t been wasted and it’s not a bitter pill I’m trying to swallow. Love is grand, and love hurts like a motherfucker.

A popular trend has taken place in the literary world over the past several years, and I’m not exactly certain who started it, but it’s been amazing: Kick-ass Heroines. Women who are tough, strong, stubborn, sexy, and who know exactly what they want in life. Oh sure, the occasional Ana or Bella sneaks their way into the arena, but those girls wouldn’t stand a chance if they had to go up against Mercy Thompson or Rylee Adamson, Anita Blake or Antoinette Petrescu, or even Nemy Mussolini. I’d add Kitty, but I still haven’t read that series yet. I know, don’t hurt me.

A few years back (more like 5 years ago), I ran across Carrie Vaughn’s blog “Filling the Well” and her three-part analysis of urban fantasy, starting with The Formula, where she briefly explains what’s involved in an urban fantasy novel. Carrie’s part II covers her urban fantasy pet peeves, which as a writer I found extremely useful, and she finishes with her Deconstructing Urban Fantasy Part III. I don’t feel like using her material and citing, so I’ve linked the posts for you. Yes, I do have an English degree. This three-part series is important because it covers several key points about kick-ass heroines and how they’re viewed by the readers. Carrie helped me realize a few things about the characters I was writing in the realm of urban fantasy and/or paranormal fiction. Hell, her blog even helped me create Nemy and her friends in the Kick-Ass Girls Club series, a contemporary romance series, or at least refine them. But, I had one specific character who needed a complete overhaul. You haven’t met her just yet, but you will at some point. She was whiny and seemed weak as hell even though she was actually grieving a loss. I saw her with new eyes after reading Carrie’s words and started rewriting the series. Armen, whom you’ll meet this coming summer, benefited greatly from reading Carrie’s posts. She’s everything I mentioned at the beginning of this: tough, strong, sexy, stubborn, and she has no tramp stamp or leather. *grins* Armen prefers jeans and a hoodie, but the girl hasn’t been human all that long.

Honestly, you should just follow Carrie’s blog at this point.

486515_10151077881687278_420843346_nBut let’s talk about WHY kick-ass heroines need to exist. Why are readers drawn to the kick-ass heroine? I’ll agree with Carrie, in that I think it reflects societal fears. Plus, heroic women? Who doesn’t want that? I’m not your typical female, so I’ve been pushing against the grain all my life. Personally, I’d rather read a Mercy Thompson book any day over Twilight because I do not find that series or Bella intriguing or challenging. I guess I grew out of the princess stage, decided I’d stop waiting for a prince that would never arrive, and made myself queen a la Elizabeth I style. I don’t need rescued and if I want something done, I’ll do it my damn self. But, there’s that lingering bit in the back of my mind that adds the fucking dominant male to the story. However, the dominant male usually has a lot of trouble controlling the dominant female, and you know what? He enjoys the hell out of that.

The kick-ass heroine is important because she offers readers an escape, and she shows younger women how strong they can be (one hopes correctly) if they take the chance and step outside normalcy or what’s expected of them. Is it possible to stay strong and fall in love? Sure it is. I know several strong women who lead wonderful lives without ever losing themselves in their significant others. But what’s also nice to see in these novels is the kick-ass heroine’s flaws. They make her more human, realistic. With Shannon Mayer’s Rylee Adamson series, we get to watch Rylee grow and soften around the edges because she’s been so hardened from life. She has her weak moments, albeit rare, and she makes mistakes. Just. Like. Everyone. Else. Sometimes, her mistakes drive us up the wall, but…she has her soft spots, and as cold-hearted as we want her to be in that moment, if she were that, we’d hate her. We really would. My heroines tend to hit that point and I have to reign them back a bit. We don’t want to read about a cold-hearted bitch using violence to save the world or whatever. That just makes her a psychopath hellbent on ruling the universe.

The kick-ass heroine also makes the decisions that we in reality can’t make for whatever reason(s). It’s not necessarily a bad thing on us. When it comes down to the ‘fight or flight’ syndrome, we ALL imagine that we’ll stand and fight, but that may not be the case, and there is absolutely nothing wrong with the flight part of that. It’s called survival instinct. In an extreme situation, you are going to do one or the other. Period. The heroes and heroines of the fictional world stand and fight…always. They’re the ones who make the sacrifices for us so the world can be a better place. And since the really real world is not a better place, we need them in compelling stories so we can escape for just a little while and dream…and hope.

I could keep talking about this, but I’d really like to leave it up for discussion (even though no one comments). What are your thoughts on the kick-ass heroine? Why is she popular? What does she offer readers? And most importantly, how did Bella get so goddamn popular? Also, do you need to be rescued? Why not rescue yourself?

 

Advertisements

20 thoughts on “Why Kick-Ass Heroines Need to Exist

  1. I love a well written kick-ass heroine. She lives life her way, but knows her own faults and weaknesses and doesn’t let them define who she is. She lets her strength define who she is and how she lives and loves. I think the reason we love them so much is we want to be like them…all the time or at least we want to have their strength when we need it and not run and hide when the going gets tough.

    • I completely agree, Jenny. I know there have been times where I’ve disappeared into an urban fantasy world and wished I was the heroine, even if she has to deal with evil vampires and crazy alpha werewolves. =)

  2. First off, I love Anita Blake. She was my first kick-ass heroine. 🙂 I love strong female characters, not necessarily just the kick-ass ones. I don’t know if admitting this will make me look like a giant nerd, but Buffy Summers is probably my ideal heroine. She’s badass, sticks up for her friends and family (whether conjured out of thin air or once a villain), but she’s also fragile (not the word I wanted, but close enough) and still tries to see the good in the world. Joss Whedon is one of the best writers for kick-ass chicks. I think he’s done a lot in helping make that type popular. He writes them like real people and then adds the extra kick-ass. It’s like what makes Batman so popular (and Superman not so) because he’s relateable. It’s the human part that always connects me to a character and it’s the badassery that keeps me coming back.

    To answer your last two questions: I used to think I needed to be rescued. I’m a hopeless romantic and although I still wish for my Prince Charming, I’m no longer waiting. I just figure I’ll run into him while I’m busy saving the world and he’ll end up chasing after me.

    • I agree that Joss Whedon writes amazingly strong women! He’s one of my favorite writers. That human connection is extremely important when it comes to writing characters. And I feel pretty much the same way about Prince Charming. =)

  3. Joss Whedon totally has kick ass chicks – we need to add Zoe from firefly to that list for sure! 🙂

    Came to party from Susie’s place and now I’m all thinking deep thoughts on strong females, with three little girls it’s something I’ve put quite a bit of thought into but I’ve never thought about how hard it must be for writers to walk the line between psycopath/strong/Bella when creating them!

    • Oh hell yeah! Zoe is one of my fave strong female characters ever! I saw a meme the other day that said, “Q: Why do you write strong female characters? Joss: Because you keep asking that question.”

  4. You raise such great questions! I don’t know why Bella and the Twilight Series became so popular. She was so dependent on Edward for EVERYTHING. She was such a whiner. I haven’t read a lot of Urban Fantasy, but I remember being pumped after watching badass Trinity in The Matrix. Now she was a woman I could root for. I will check out “Filling the Well.” I am always looking for writing advice!

    Thanks for bringing this to the party! Have fun clicking on links and saying hello to my friends! They should click back to your place!

  5. I came over from Susie’s party and started reading your blog post. Except I had to stop to watch the frog turn into a teeny little prince. And then to read Carrie’s analysis posts. And then to go to Carries website and check out her amazing books. And then back to your website to check out your amazing books. And then… Wait. I came back. Because I try to write kick-ass heroines too, and urban fantasy is my favorite genre, and those comments above about Anita Blake and… (Why do I feel like reading your blog is a tryout for a Dug role on “Up in the Air”?)

    No, actually, I absolutely LOVE your post and SQUIRREL! Damn.

  6. Stopped by from Susie’s party. Love the subject matter. Kickass heroines. What I truly love about the trend is that it’s hitting pretty much every level out there these days. I mean, Merida from Disney’s Brave was pretty awesome…and she was not looking for some dude to save her. In fact, she was more badass than every dude trying to win her hand. Even in the adult romance category…more and more of the female characters are strong, smart and tough. Completely able to stand on their own two feet. In fact, even in the BDSM book universe, it’s the “bratty” subs that have become all the rage. Me? I’m diggin’ the fact that Black Widow is just as awesome a hero as the rest of the Avengers. 😉

Have something to say? Jot it down. I dare you. ;)

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s