Where are the female villains?
I found an interesting discussion piece recently about female villains. It didn’t just discuss the fact that female villains are far less common than male villains, but also that female villains are generally ‘evil’ for the dumbest, most vapid reasons imaginable. In other words, they are petty, they are pathetic, and they are never taken seriously. I think it’s time to change that, don’t you? But first, maybe we should examine why female villains are portrayed the way they are.
1) Male writers/directors.
Perhaps this point is a bit cliche, stereotypical, and becoming outdated, but the fact of the matter is that men, for a long period of time, were the ones writing fiction. They created the protagonists and the antagonists. Additionally, women throughout much of Western history were seen as weak, fragile, mindless, and incapable of legitimate, logical thought. As such, it’s a no brainer that females would be portrayed as vapid and petty.
“Hell Hath No Fury Like A Woman Scorned.”
This quote is a perfect example of why women are often portrayed poorly.
We presume that the ONLY reason a woman would ‘misbehave’ is because some MAN wronged her.
Pfft! Yeah, okay. Back to the 1950’s with you!
2) Women vs Women
This is an entire discussion in itself – one I plan to get into in a discussion in a few weeks – but for some reason, even when females are writing fiction, the women in the stories hate each other. They usually hate each other for the dumbest reasons too: men, power, beauty. As such, it’s ten times easier to write a female villain who hates a younger/smarter/whatever female protagonist for the dumbest reasons.
3) Female Outward Appearance
This is a newer creation in that, as women have gained rights, power, voice, etc, they have begun to notice the appearance they give out to the rest of society/the world. This is very important! It means women are making headway in ‘A Man’s World,’ but there have been side effects. Namely, women no longer want to be portrayed as the villain because they don’t want that kind of FICTIONAL negativity thrown at them IRL (because we STILL believe that books are a PERFECT representation of reality. Morons.)
Please note that, as I make these points, I am not forgetting the female villains that have been absolutely fucking FAB-U-LOUS! There have been plenty out there and they are a testament to the fact that females can make GREAT villains for reasons other than revenge, beauty, and other hodge-podge crap writers come up with. (And I totally get to call these writers out because God knows I have been that writer.)
So now that we understand the root of the problem, how do we go about inviting writers to portray women as villains and, more importantly, villains that have LEGIT reasons to be villains? Well… I’m not entirely sure I have answer to this.
First off, a lot of the portrayal has to do with genre and age group. Another aspect is that we are actually fighting a battle of simply making villains more realistic in GENERAL, irregardless of their gender. We still write villains as these 1D blobs with no personalities. And maybe that is half the problem. If we can figure out how to write legitimate, real people as villains (which honestly is not as hard as people seem to make it look), we could solve HALF our problem right there.
Then we just have to stop pretending like women would have different reasons to be villains than men. Honestly, humans are NOT all that different from each other despite this ongoing chaotic battle of gender, sexuality, race, religion, etc, etc, etc. (WHOLE different subject. Trying REALLY hard not to tangent the bejeebus out of this.) Women could very well have specific reasons for becoming evil that men may not understand, but do NOT simplify it to say that women become villains because someone was prettier than them/younger than them/smarter than them because that’s assuming ALL women are vapid, airheaded POSs.
But what do you think?
How are we doing with female villains?
Leave your thoughts below!
And check out my discussion from last week:
“Post-Apocalypse vs Dystopian“