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Author Topic: Female Fantasy Readers thoughts on Male Protagonists  (Read 11234 times)

Offline NinjaRaptor

Re: Female Fantasy Readers thoughts on Male Protagonists
« Reply #45 on: January 24, 2016, 07:50:38 PM »
They're small, but they're loud. And can flood your social media with negative responses. For alot of people non white non straight non cis non male needs to be  justfied as to why you're portraying them less than positively. The perception comes about that there may be some bigotry in there. If it was a straight cis white man that question wouldn't even be on the table. Which is why alot of writers just default to that. And when they don't, they go for the Strong Female Character, or the Wise Ethnic Character in fantasy/sci fi genres. It's well trodden, safe ground.
I know what you mean, but unfortunately being trolled on social media for whatever reason might be an inevitability in this day and age, no matter what position you take. And the truth is that people criticizing your work for whatever reason is going to be an inevitability if you're a writer. Do you have to take all these criticisms to heart if you decide they're unfair? No. You have the right to ignore them if you decide they're not useful. But as much as such critics' self-righteous attitudes can be obnoxious, they probably won't go away anytime soon. So we shouldn't let them interfere with our storytelling.
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Offline CryptofCthulhu

Re: Female Fantasy Readers thoughts on Male Protagonists
« Reply #46 on: January 24, 2016, 09:48:57 PM »

And the insistence of Only If It Suits The Story I think kind of misses that.


Because too often the story is made to fit around a straight white dude, for no reason. There needs to be no reason for someone to be black, or brown, or Asian looking. Because the whiteness of a character often doesn't affect the story either. So, uh, why does he need to be white and straight? S/he doesn't

The reason being that's the story the author wanted to create. Can't get much simpler than that.
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Offline CryptofCthulhu

Re: Female Fantasy Readers thoughts on Male Protagonists
« Reply #47 on: January 24, 2016, 09:56:20 PM »
No, but a white man isn't a politically protected class. Therefore there's more room for characterization without potential for causing gender based or race based offense. They're the safest race to portray as they're least likely to gain a response from feminist and civil rights critics.

I don't think this matters. The more fanatical members of any movement, aka, the people looking to take offense for the sake of pushing their agenda, will find a reason to criticize your work regardless of how 'safe' you are. To me, this doesn't seem like a good reason to limit yourself or the diversity of your novel. But, to each their own.

And unfortunately these types of people are becoming more vocal, and trying to nitpick everything. I read one blogger that said if you didn't include any gay characters in your novel you were a closet homophobe.  :o  ::)

I think the best solution is just a greater variety of authors from different backgrounds writing stories and incorporating their own experiences and perspectives into what they are creating.

Out of all the creative mediums out there, writing surely is the easiest to get involved with. Pencil and paper are cheap, you just have to supply the imagination.
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Offline J.R. Darewood

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Re: Female Fantasy Readers thoughts on Male Protagonists
« Reply #48 on: January 25, 2016, 01:32:52 AM »
And unfortunately these types of people are becoming more vocal, and trying to nitpick everything. I read one blogger that said if you didn't include any gay characters in your novel you were a closet homophobe.  :o  ::)

I think the best solution is just a greater variety of authors from different backgrounds writing stories and incorporating their own experiences and perspectives into what they are creating.

Out of all the creative mediums out there, writing surely is the easiest to get involved with. Pencil and paper are cheap, you just have to supply the imagination.

It's kind of tricky-- I'm on tumblr so I see this kind of stuff a lot. A lot of anger, about the heteronormativity of books and movies, representation of minorities etc etc. My old roommate was an Asian actor, and watching him practice for auditions it was really clear how he was typecast (and how disturbingly racist the writing is in Hollywood). Moreover, there was a study done by USC that found that: “Across 100 top-grossing films of 2012, only 10.8 percent of speaking characters are Black, 4.2 percent are Hispanic, 5 percent are Asian, and 3.6 percent are from other (or mixed race) ethnicities,” I think whites comprised 75% of the speaking roles while nonwhites comprised nearly half of the ticket sales.

So AshKB makes a lot of sense here:

It's how much Rey and Finn have been clung to in the new Star Wars movie - oh my god, someone like me gets to be the hero*. There was a female Chinese X-wing pilot in that movie, too, a tiny supporting role. But that touched people, too. 'Oh, she looks like me and she gets to fly an X-wing ? '.

Yes, things are political and emotional about diversity, but at the core of it, this is what it is: to tell stories and to reach out to people. And it doesn't take much.

And the insistence of Only If It Suits The Story I think kind of misses that.

Especially if people seek things out, they can find great literature, great independent films that aren't circulating at the scale that a blockbuster is (probably *because* it's appealing to the economic majority) with some really thought provoking representation going on. Its just not as likely in the more cookie-cutter blockbuster narratives, probably because at larger scales, the political and economic majority will inevitably dominate-- Which is sort of the nature of inequality in the first place.

There's a big difference between casting knights of African descent (fully Anglo-acculturated) in the TV show "Merlin" and a movie like "12 Years As a Slave" which addresses instead of erases these inequalities. But both of them seem to be meaningful to audiences dealing with inequality, misrepresentation and a lack of representation in their daily lives.

So at the end of the day I understand all of this, but when it translates into my writing-- sometimes it's tricky. Cuz I'm a white guy and I like writing white male heterosexuals too. I have slavery, I have sexism, and I have classism in my writing, but in the particular series I'm currently invested in, when I open up with a Eurocentric fantasy setting with a predominantly male cast of characters and I contributing to the problem? I'm not planning on changing genders or races the characters present in the opening (it would screw up the plot), but it does leave me a bit torn and wondering if there's a way to convey some sort of solidarity with these issues in that context. Or whether I should just drop that thought and save it for another story...

Offline AshKB

Re: Female Fantasy Readers thoughts on Male Protagonists
« Reply #49 on: January 25, 2016, 02:36:58 AM »
So at the end of the day I understand all of this, but when it translates into my writing-- sometimes it's tricky. Cuz I'm a white guy and I like writing white male heterosexuals too. I have slavery, I have sexism, and I have classism in my writing, but in the particular series I'm currently invested in, when I open up with a Eurocentric fantasy setting with a predominantly male cast of characters and I contributing to the problem? I'm not planning on changing genders or races the characters present in the opening (it would screw up the plot), but it does leave me a bit torn and wondering if there's a way to convey some sort of solidarity with these issues in that context. Or whether I should just drop that thought and save it for another story...

Minor characters, I think? Walk-ins. I'm not sure of the set-up of your start, obviously, but third tier, second tier characters being more diverse does help with the acknowledgement of people other than white guys existing. Even within sexist, racist societies, women and POC were around. The blacksmith could be a woman, the innkeeper could be fantasy!Chinese, the ship captain could have [X], that kind of thing. It doesn't change the rules of a society, but it does help with the 'oh, the author is aware that more people actually exist'.
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Offline CryptofCthulhu

Re: Female Fantasy Readers thoughts on Male Protagonists
« Reply #50 on: January 26, 2016, 12:36:18 PM »
So at the end of the day I understand all of this, but when it translates into my writing-- sometimes it's tricky. Cuz I'm a white guy and I like writing white male heterosexuals too. I have slavery, I have sexism, and I have classism in my writing, but in the particular series I'm currently invested in, when I open up with a Eurocentric fantasy setting with a predominantly male cast of characters and I contributing to the problem? I'm not planning on changing genders or races the characters present in the opening (it would screw up the plot), but it does leave me a bit torn and wondering if there's a way to convey some sort of solidarity with these issues in that context. Or whether I should just drop that thought and save it for another story...

Minor characters, I think? Walk-ins. I'm not sure of the set-up of your start, obviously, but third tier, second tier characters being more diverse does help with the acknowledgement of people other than white guys existing. Even within sexist, racist societies, women and POC were around. The blacksmith could be a woman, the innkeeper could be fantasy!Chinese, the ship captain could have [X], that kind of thing. It doesn't change the rules of a society, but it does help with the 'oh, the author is aware that more people actually exist'.

But on the other hand you can ask, what is significant about making the character Chinese, or female? Just to toss a certain reader demographic a bone? Or is the fact that he/she is Chinese vital to the story and they have a specific purpose for being put there?

I know the same could be said about the default white male lead, but given how that main character type has been the standard in fantasy for x number of years, I don't think it has to be defended at every turn. The proof is in the success of these types of characters, over and over. They become in some ways synonymous with the genre, even if it irks some readers.

Using your examples, perhaps the time period involves heavy trade with Chinese merchants, which would make plenty of sense. Or in the case of a blacksmith, the woman was down on her luck, maybe even a freed slave, and was able to convince a blacksmith to teach her. Her motivation to have a way to make money and survive so that she doesn't have to go back to what she was before drives her to become the best in the city, region, etc.

If an author wants to buck convention and change the demographic I think showing how this benefits the story by digging a little deeper into the character is important, even if it may seem unfair to have to go to those lengths.

I think the argument for creating characters that aren't the typical default is strengthened by taking the opportunity to make the most of these alternatives.
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Offline CryptofCthulhu

Re: Female Fantasy Readers thoughts on Male Protagonists
« Reply #51 on: January 26, 2016, 12:48:10 PM »


It's kind of tricky-- I'm on tumblr so I see this kind of stuff a lot. A lot of anger, about the heteronormativity of books and movies, representation of minorities etc etc. My old roommate was an Asian actor, and watching him practice for auditions it was really clear how he was typecast (and how disturbingly racist the writing is in Hollywood). Moreover, there was a study done by USC that found that: “Across 100 top-grossing films of 2012, only 10.8 percent of speaking characters are Black, 4.2 percent are Hispanic, 5 percent are Asian, and 3.6 percent are from other (or mixed race) ethnicities,” I think whites comprised 75% of the speaking roles while nonwhites comprised nearly half of the ticket sales.

Is this in America or worldwide?

Hollywood is a business and it knows what sells. That's the situation in a nutshell. Even if race was adjusted for percentage of representation in society for the sake of "fairness", whites would still make up the majority of speaking roles. That any other race group should have the exact same number of speaking rolls as the one that makes up the majority of the country is just illogical. If the country's racial makeup was divided into equal parts, say 10% for ten different racial groups, and the roles were distributed like the study above, then It would be a glaring problem.

Should there be more non-white, non-male, speaking roles? Sure, why not. However, I would prefer these roles were given based on acting talent and not because some non-profit group bullied a movie studio until they caved in.

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Offline Nora

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Re: Female Fantasy Readers thoughts on Male Protagonists
« Reply #52 on: January 26, 2016, 02:05:53 PM »
Quote
But on the other hand you can ask, what is significant about making the character Chinese, or female? Just to toss a certain reader demographic a bone? Or is the fact that he/she is Chinese vital to the story and they have a specific purpose for being put there?

And what reason do you need? Are you tossing a bone to someone if you'd just like your character to be dark skinned or asian? Need it matter?
If you write UF or anything based on our modern world, we have enough old immigration that you can have any race and gender given to your MC along with run-of-the-mill social behaviour you'd have given your white lead.
Giving a MC a different social background than your own can be way more tricky.
I don't feel like the origin of the character needs to be vital to the story. It's thinking that the MC being Chinese "for no reason" is a bone tossed to chinese people that is a wrong mindset.

Also, as a french woman who has lived in english speaking countries for years, I would probably be way more stereotypical writing a white Russian character than a black french character!
Then what police do we call?  :P

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Offline Raptori

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Re: Female Fantasy Readers thoughts on Male Protagonists
« Reply #53 on: January 26, 2016, 02:53:40 PM »
I don't have a problem with a character being a minority for no reason, unless it doesn't have the appropriate impact and/or make sense within the wider context of the story. For example, a female soldier in an entirely male army would be out of place, so if it's not ever confronted during the story or explained via backstory it'll stick out to me and feel wrong. Same goes for, say, a Chinese soldier fighting in the War of the Roses - makes no sense, needs to be explained.

A great example of this kind of thing done brilliantly imo is the Shadow Campaigns series by Django Wexler. One of the protagonists, Winter, is a female soldier (pretending to be male). She has a valid reason to be there (running from her past), her gender affects the plot and provides both opportunities and obstacles, and it's explored from loads of different angles throughout the series so far. The fact that she's also homosexual is well done too - in the first book it's noted but irrelevant (exactly as it should be), in the sequels it becomes more important. After the first book, and the shift in focus from an army campaign towards a revolution, a whole raft of other strong female characters are introduced, and the theme of gender equality becomes even stronger.
« Last Edit: January 26, 2016, 03:02:07 PM by Raptori »
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Offline Rukaio_Alter

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Re: Female Fantasy Readers thoughts on Male Protagonists
« Reply #54 on: January 26, 2016, 02:56:34 PM »
Is this in America or worldwide?

Hollywood is a business and it knows what sells. That's the situation in a nutshell. Even if race was adjusted for percentage of representation in society for the sake of "fairness", whites would still make up the majority of speaking roles. That any other race group should have the exact same number of speaking rolls as the one that makes up the majority of the country is just illogical. If the country's racial makeup was divided into equal parts, say 10% for ten different racial groups, and the roles were distributed like the study above, then It would be a glaring problem.

Should there be more non-white, non-male, speaking roles? Sure, why not. However, I would prefer these roles were given based on acting talent and not because some non-profit group bullied a movie studio until they caved in.
Correction. Hollywood thinks it knows what sells. And very easily gets caught in its own deluded circle jerk logic. Allow me to show you the thought process of a typical Hollywood executive.

"Why doesn't Hollywood have more female/minority led blockbusters?"
"Because they don't sell."
"How do you know they don't sell?"
"Because most of the big blockbuster successes this year didn't have female/minority leads."
"But that's because most of the blockbusters released this year didn't have female/minority leads at all."
"That's because female/minority leads don't sell."
Repeat ad infinity.

And it's especially funny because the very few female/minority led films that actually get made have shown that they really can sell. Two of the highest grossing films this year were Star Wars and Furious 7, both of which had female/minority casts and made a shitton of money. Same goes for mid-tier hits like Straight Outta Compton and Creed. Yet Hollywood constantly chooses to 'play it safe' by sticking to straight white male leads without even considering other options.

Now to be fair, to some extent it is an understandable reaction. Films cost a lot of money to make and studios can't exactly be blamed for wanting to stick to the safe and known. But that also ends up leading to the circle jerk above. And that is why the studios need a good kick in the teeth every once in a while to be reminded to include female/minority leads. And, to some extent, it does seems to be working. We've got several female/minority led superhero movies like Black Panther and Captain Marvel coming, films I doubt would nearly be as much of a priority if it wasn't for people getting on Marvel's ass about it. So those groups do actually do some good.

Certainly, the idea of people just being given jobs based on ability alone and not just to bolster diversity is a very nice thought and, if we lived in a perfect world, should be exactly how things work. But we don't live in a perfect world. There is noticeable discrimination and bias against females/minorities, maybe not out of malice, but is still there and does need to change. And if it won't do so naturally, then yes, by actively throwing in roles for diversity's sake.

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Offline Lanko

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Re: Female Fantasy Readers thoughts on Male Protagonists
« Reply #55 on: January 26, 2016, 03:06:43 PM »
The problem with Star Wars and Fast and Furious 7 is that they are sequels of legendary franchises. If they had or not minorities, they would have made a shitton of money anyway.

The Hunger Games is probably a much better example.
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Offline Rukaio_Alter

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Re: Female Fantasy Readers thoughts on Male Protagonists
« Reply #56 on: January 26, 2016, 03:34:37 PM »
The problem with Star Wars and Fast and Furious 7 is that they are sequels of legendary franchises. If they had or not minorities, they would have made a shitton of money anyway.
Fast & Furious may already be an established franchise, yes, but it's always been a very diverse one. And the fact that 75% of Furious 7's audience was non-white shows that it's definitely paid off.

As for Star Wars, yes I admit it probably would've made a ton of money anyway, but let's point out for a second here that out of all the new characters, the breakout character who is actually selling the most merchandise at the moment is in fact Rey. (Indeed, Disney's already received a lot of criticisms and complaints for severely underestimating the demand for Rey merchandise.) So it's still worth commenting on.
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Offline Lanko

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Re: Female Fantasy Readers thoughts on Male Protagonists
« Reply #57 on: January 26, 2016, 03:53:09 PM »
Yea, Fast and Furious seems to have a tradition on diversity. I remember the very first one, with white, black, latinos, asians. But back then nobody kept pointing at it or anything. 
Even the original SW had Lando and Leia, although they weren't much active.

I just find a bit strange that some people complain (sometimes looking like they are just raging) so voraciously about this topic.
I mean, look at the Matrix. They even approached Will Smith before Keanu Reeves for Neo. And then you have Trinity and Morpheus. You have plenty of asian influences, the Oracle appeared to be latin, it even had albinos!
And that was in 1999.

The Men in Black with Will Smith was even older. So diversity was being done and was selling. This are just examples that came right away, probably there were many more.

Although I admit I'm not much of a movie's guy. But sometimes it seems that nowadays the diversity topic seems more important than the story or the fun people had with a movie.   
« Last Edit: January 26, 2016, 03:55:04 PM by Lanko »
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Offline Rukaio_Alter

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Re: Female Fantasy Readers thoughts on Male Protagonists
« Reply #58 on: January 26, 2016, 04:58:55 PM »
Yea, Fast and Furious seems to have a tradition on diversity. I remember the very first one, with white, black, latinos, asians. But back then nobody kept pointing at it or anything.
Yes, that's because the internet wasn't as widespread back then so peoples voices weren't as widely heard.

Quote
I just find a bit strange that some people complain (sometimes looking like they are just raging) so voraciously about this topic.
People complain because that's the only way they can affect change on this subject. I already pointed out the vicious circle-jerk Hollywood is already in. If people don't make their voices clear, what reason does Hollywood have to change?

Quote
I mean, look at the Matrix. They even approached Will Smith before Keanu Reeves for Neo. And then you have Trinity and Morpheus. You have plenty of asian influences, the Oracle appeared to be latin, it even had albinos!
And that was in 1999.

The Men in Black with Will Smith was even older. So diversity was being done and was selling. This are just examples that came right away, probably there were many more.
Except the problems there are that those films are largely part of the rare exceptions. Take a look at the movie listings for those relevant years. Most of the big movies were still led by white actors. A rare movie back then does not prove diversity anymore than Furious 7 proves it nowadays.

Also it wasn't 'diversity' that was being promoted in Men in Black. It was Will Smith. See, compared to now, films back then were much more reliant on a big name star to sell their product. Will Smith was a big name star. In fact, he's probably the biggest name black star in movie history and that's precisely the problem. It's a struggle to think of a single black/minority actor even close to being as popular as Will Smith was in his prime. Samuel L. Jackson is the only one I can really think of in the same ballpark (and maybe Denzel Washington). Yet you can also name dozens of white actors as popular/more popular than Will Smith was. Will Smith was a very rare exception to that rule.

Quote
Although I admit I'm not much of a movie's guy. But sometimes it seems that nowadays the diversity topic seems more important than the story or the fun people had with a movie.
Seriously? What movie groups do you follow? I rarely see a genuinely good movie penalised solely because it doesn't have a diverse cast. The difference is that we recognise diversity as being important nowadays and, with the advent of the internet, people have a platform for their voices to be heard. It's not that these complaints have never there at all, it's just that we can hear them easier now.
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Offline Lanko

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Re: Female Fantasy Readers thoughts on Male Protagonists
« Reply #59 on: January 26, 2016, 05:29:38 PM »
Seriously? What movie groups do you follow? I rarely see a genuinely good movie penalised solely because it doesn't have a diverse cast. The difference is that we recognise diversity as being important nowadays and, with the advent of the internet, people have a platform for their voices to be heard. It's not that these complaints have never there at all, it's just that we can hear them easier now.

Which also means that movies with diverse casts were made anyway back then without the same level of pressure.

I don't follow any movie group, but when researching it, and not just movies, but books and games as well, it's not really difficult to find something getting trashed about it, even on this forum.

Diversity is good, I agree and I like it, I just don't like it when it feels forced. Because when they do force it, they make caricatures, cliches or try to prove some point in a really bad manner.
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