In Every Fantasy Oriented, Post Apocalyptic World
Women and the media industry have a long and complicated past. From issues with agency, issues with consent, issues with representation and issues with characterization, women and the media aren’t the best of friends. Unfortunate, because mainstream media is one of the best ways to rid ourselves of a lot of problems in society.
And I have a problem with almost all of them. There’s a problem I have with almost all mainstream fantasy universes, but we will have to get to that later.
The central issue is that people cannot seem to write a female character without thinking “Oh, okay, she’s a woman and this is her story.” We have to think about women with a little more complexity, folks. For being stereotyped successively for many centuries as the sex which is complicated unnecessarily, media certainly doesn’t treat women that way. Women in popular media are always looked at women first and then characters second. Remove some female roles from movies, and they almost make no difference – apart from maybe having no love interest in the movie.
Token female characters in post apocalyptic settings are even worse. They have to conform to a certain standard, and while the writers often find many ways to use those standards to write complex characters, I can’t escape the fact that these standards are necessary to hit the minimum box office requirements.
Obviously, a woman in a post apocalyptic setting where society has crumbled will always have brown hair (blonde is the colour of silliness and frivolity, don’t’cha know?). They wear brown leather jackets, and almost always keep their hair in plaits. They have a skill which will help them survive: archery, most often.
No one ever talks about what it took for them to learn this skill. No evidence is shown, very often, of the skill the girl possesses, apart from maybe one fight in which she fights another woman of similar caliber (witness the many movies in The Mummy franchise). And to be completely honest, I would think a more interesting character would be one that learns these skills along the way. I like seeing growth that I can see and while I saw so many flaws in the Divergent series, I did not have an issue with Tris learning to use a gun herself.
There’s also the token romance. I hate this even more than I hate the token female character. The token female character sometimes grows out of her token-ness and becomes a character of her own right, but the token romance is just… there. The characters haven’t shown why they are compatible, we aren’t told why the hero should be with the girl, but they are because he’s the hero and she’s the female.
That’s it. That’s the reason. And I will be the first to admit that I love movies that certain tropes, I hate movies which have the tropes simply because. For instance, I love Mean Girls. At the same time, Mean Girls has every single trope with an inventive spin.