Barbie Rescues Ken

Right so. I was thinking about the notion of the independent woman the other day. Don’t ask why. Not sure how it came about. I think it started because I was talking to someone about boyfriends. Whatever.

After the conversation ended, it stuck in my mind. I wound up thinking about literature, as I usually do. After this came the idea of archetypes and stereotypes and how women have been portrayed in literature over the years.

Don’t laugh. Sometimes I do think of these things on my own.

The debate nowadays is that many of the principal female characters of old are spineless. This mainly springs from the conventions of the times and the ideals women were expected to live up to. It is only natural then, that heroines would embody the ideas of the times. Plus, most really old classic lit was penned by men. Of course they are going to want to make their own gender seem superior in literature. How hypocritical to live one way and write another!

Some say that women in classic lit are meek. They are humble. They have no backbone. They are simmering simpletons who do nothing but swoon and wait for their men to sweep them off their feet, save them from the villain’s clutches and marry them.

I say bollocks (one of my favorite British words).

Classic literature is full of strong female characters. Jane Austen. All of her heroines. Sure they all want to get married. What girl doesn’t want to get married? Also remember the time period in which she wrote. There were no real career options for a woman in her day. Marriage was really the only path. And yet Jane still managed to have a career for herself anyway. Of course there are elements of her spunky, independent self in her characters.

Scarlet O’Hara. You don’t have to like her. I don’t. But she’s a very strong woman.

Shakespeare’s women. Viola from Twelfth Night and Portia from The Merchant of Venice to name but two. Very crafty ladies. On a more sinister level, Lady Macbeth is no dummy, is she?

Kate Chopin. All of her characters. Louisa May Alcott.

So there.

I must credit Jane of All trades for a brilliant and more in depth post about this subject a while back. I urge you to check it out.

But I’m not done with you yet. I haven’t even gotten to the independent woman thing yet. And naturally anything here has to relate to my writing somehow. Bear with me for a while longer.

So after I disproved many great a scholar’s thesis about sappy women, I returned to the “product of the times” thought and came to the conclusion that nothing about that has changed. Women then were portrayed in such a fashion because that was how they were seen at the time. People wanted women to be virtuous, quiet and dependent. It was in demand. The reason we raise such an outcry against this nowadays and don’t see many new characters represented as such is because that’s not what we want.

Writers give the people what they want. They don’t get published otherwise.

Now women have careers. Now they are loud. Now they don’t give a damn about female limitations (at least in Western nations). Now readers want independent women who dominate every page and can generally be a total pain in the tookas and pass it off as a backbone. Instead of Ken saves Barbie at the end we get Barbie saves Ken.

As I thought about this and how to reach my target audience, I began to panic. I’m a hopeless romantic. Every single one of my stories involves a daring rescue of the woman by the man in the end. Cue hyperventilation. My readers won’t like it. Enter sharp pain down left arm. No one will read it. Come on numbing of left ear. My women are too weak and no one will love them and I’ll never get published and even if I do no one will read except my mom. People don’t want this anymore

they want this

Heart attack.

And then I stopped myself. Just because my women get ensnared (haha! get it? Sorry, bad joke) in a whole mess of trouble, does not mean they are weak characters. They are also not simpletons. They are convincing. They are real. They get caught because the antgonists are out to get them; that’s what antagonists do. Bad guys have to be very good at being bad guys otherwise no one will believe they are bad guys. Duh.

Sometimes the villain is one step ahead of the protagonist. This has nothing to do with the character herself. She can still be in a predicament without being meek. It is her qualities that make her strong. It is her ability to out-wit a college professor when he refuses her admission. It is her determination to run away from an abusive arranged marriage. It is her survival skills keeping her and her father afloat after financial disaster. That makes her strong.

And let’s be honest here, who doesn’t like it when Ken saves Barbie and they have a fancy wedding with poofy dresses in the end? A knight in shining armor is just plain great. Come on now.

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About Miss Rosemary

is a recent college graduate from NY hoping to complete her novel of ten years. Stop by her blog, Miss Rosemary's Novel Ideas at http://missrosemary.net or contact her at MissRosemarysNovelIdeas@gmail.com with comments, questions and suggestions. She'd love to hear from you! View all posts by Miss Rosemary

21 responses to “Barbie Rescues Ken

  • Brown Eyed Mystic

    Had to quote this:

    “It is her ability to out-wit a college professor when he refuses her admission. It is her determination to run away from an abusive arranged marriage. It is her survival skills keeping her and her father afloat after financial disaster. That makes her strong.”

    Indeed. You’re 100% right–that makes them strong. It doesn’t show that they can manage by themselves outwardly, but when you look deeper into their hearts, you see a badge of courage–just like men!

    Lovely post, Rosemary.

    -BrownEyed

  • Sharmon Gazaway

    I agree. Strong MC’s whether they are seeking marriage and romance or anything else. I’m a die-hard romantic but can’t stand sappy. I’d love to read you books!

  • Agatha82

    Another strong woman, is Mina Harker from Dracula, though written in Victorian times by a man. He still makes her strong though she is still written with that Victorian attitude. Still, Stoker has her be the key to finding Dracula.

    Strong women are good but the key is to make them fair and not just a bad stereotype of the “men hater” something I have met in real life. Those silly women who think it’s okay to put down men and say nasty jokes about them. They would all be screaming “discrimination” if it was done to them, so why they think it’s okay to do it to boys is beyond me…grrrrr

    I’m pretty much a bloke mentally lol but ‘m a girl. So I understand both sides and well, weirdly enough, I write from a male point of view better.

  • Rowenna

    So true–and just because a woman in classic lit doesn’t do things that we associate with strong women today–have a job, kick some butt–doesn’t mean she isn’t, in fact, strong. Take Beth from Little Women–she pretty much sat in the corner most of the book. But was there a single character in the book, aside from Marmee, with the same quiet strength and purpose?

    Strong women come in all sorts of variations 🙂

  • aloysa

    What about Gone with the Wind, Scarlett? I actually consider her one of the strongest characters in literature.

  • Hema P.

    Wonderful analysis, Rosemary! I believe in the old days, women had to be stronger, since they had to look meek in public while being the actual backbone of the family. Quoting an example from children’s lit, can you think of Laura Ingalls Wilder’s Paa without first thinking about her Maa? 🙂

  • amkuska

    The Good Earth also comes to mind. I can’t imagine anyone stronger than O-Lan? She takes care of her family, even when she’s dying. Very impressive.

    Miss Rosemary – If you have any interest, I’m starting a writer’s blog directory, called The Written Connection (You can see its start here: http://www.uninvoked.com/writingblogs/wordpress/ ) and I’d love to include your blog in it. I’m trying to do a few extras besides just including links, such as blog reviews and also interviews. If you’re interested, can you drop me a line at sskid2000 AT hotmail DOT com for your blogs inclusion?

    Thanks! I’m so looking forward to it. ^^

  • brownpaperbaggirl

    Fantastic post. There are all sorts of different types of strength. I think people all too often forget this. And, every one does love happy endings including knights in shinning armour.

  • Sangu

    To be honest, I think we see more passive heroines in some kinds of modern fiction than we do in classic! Category romance, for example – while the heroines of most Mills & Boon novels put up a token resistance, and argue, and generally act outraged, they always end up doing what the overbearing arrogant gorgeous male lead wants them to.

    In contrast, books by Georgette Heyer, for example – her novels are largely Regency-based, and her heroines are feisty and funny and yes, sometimes they do give in to the male, but it’s realistic because it suits the period and it’s also amazing to see how they’re feisty in spite of it!

  • slightlyignorant

    THANK YOU. I’ve always thought this about Jane Austen, and obviously about Louisa May Alcott. The problem is that today we’re looking at women through the eyes of a modern society that tries to find equality between the sexes, while during the times some of these women were written, society was something completely different. How dare we say that women were spineless then when they didn’t have the rights we have now and the were expected to behave completely differently? All of Jane Austen’s novels deal with women who are unique, interesting and strong in their own individual ways, whether they’re sassy or trying to be good and moral. *sigh* I’m so glad you wrote about this, it’s one of the things that seriously anger me when people talk about Jane Austen’s novels being all boring chic-lit.

  • Cities of the Mind

    […] with nanites in their bloodstream and cyber implants. Really. So check out Barbie Rescues Ken over at Novel […]

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