Today I had one of those thoughts that's kind of stating the obvious so there's little need to write it down, but it was in response to many people implying it wasn't true so I'm writing it down. It has to do with female characters.

A few months ago, for instance, I came across a thing showing a sort of "evolution" of Disney princesses. How in the early days we had passive girls who waited for their prince like Cinderella and Snow White. Then we had the girls who were proactive but still had stories that still ended with her getting a man like Belle and Ariel, and then we got the girls who were in it for themselves like Mulan and Tiana (who some complain has to get a job when the white girls get to be queens). What strikes me about that is that yes, you can always point out trends in Disney movies, but there's an implication here of the girls improving towards some ideal.

Evolution often gets spoken about that way too, and it's just as wrong there. Like people often think of evolution in terms of nature perfecting something when that's not how it works. It's just branching out into many species that are all workable in their niche. Like people often show charts of earlier versions of horses leading up to the horses we love that are so streamlined and awesome. When really, there used to be many different types of horses across the entire world, and now there's only one. It's a fine type, of course, but the evolutionary tree is not in healthy shape when it's narrowed to one twig. You want to have a lot of different types all doing their thing.

So what does that have to do with Disney princesses or female characters? I feel like they get talked about the same way, as if female characters are competing to be the one representative. Once we find one better than the last she replaces her in this constant search for the character who "gets it right." And I feel like this is something that's more intense when it comes to female character than it is with other minority characters, even though they're facing similar challenges and do get similar criticisms.

Belle isn't a stage of development leading up to Mulan, she's just a different girl in a different story who has qualities a lot of girls can still relate to and still has lessons to teach. Recently I also saw something lr complaining about Katniss Everdeen and asking when we would get a *good* female heroine (maybe one who was also "strong") which Katniss apparently wasn't in the poster's eyes. I can't talk about that series too well because I'm at this point halfway throught the second book but I really found myself questioning what this person wanted. I mean, some of the criticisms I just didn't agree with. Like one person to me seemed to feel that while Katniss started out strong her strength was undermined by Collins giving her a character arc where she grew and learned. (One person seemed to feel she was always being compared unfavorably to Peeta by other characters and the text but so far I just don't see that at all. And it's even sort of ironic since THG very much uses the modern trope of giving the girl qualities that were historically given to the boy/man and vice versa.)

Anyway, it seems to me that Katniss is a strong character in that she's got a clear personality driven by clear motivations and temperment. She seems like the believable product of her experiences and natural personality, and so far she hasn't done anything that seemed OOC based on what I know of her to serve the plot or whatever. I can't think of any major decisions she's made that weren't her own. Maybe it was unfair, but I did wind up feeling like Katniss was being compared to some ideal where she would always fall short because no character can be everything. You have to pick the limits of the character and the story you're writing (seriously--the themes and ideas of the story are going to inform the characters) and stick to it. It's not that I don't think it's sometimes a good idea to look at trends or limitations that are given to girl characters as a group, but that's different than judging one character.

The reward comes not from finally getting the girl we can all like, but in having a myriad of girls to choose from that encompass tons of different characteristics and flaws. It's just sometimes it feels like when people talk about girl characters instead of looking at them and saying "I love her, I like her, she's okay, she's boring, she's funny, hate her, she bugs me..." it's more saying, "Not her. Not her. Not her. Not her." Of course sometimes you'll get a "Her!" but when you frame it that way there will naturally be other people who say, "Her? WTF? Not her!"
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