Thank you so much for having me here, Josh! I can officially vouch for this blog. It’s not a He-Man Woman Hater’s Club, though I would gladly accept the title She-ra, Princess of Power! J
I’ve been curious about the presentation of gender roles in books and movies for quite some time. My college senior thesis related to this very topic. For my final “exam,” I presented a paper tracking the evolving role of women in Disney movies. Think about it…the earlier Disney films featured helpless damsels in distress saved by dashing, strong princes (usually by his kiss--for example, Sleeping Beauty and Snow White). Fast forward a few decades to find Mulan kicking butt and taking names while saving the male lead or Merida in Brave without a male counterpart at all. I personally prefer the ones where the male and female help one another like Beauty and the Beast or Rapunzel.
Interestingly, I think the role of boys in books has gone the opposite direction--from main characters to supports for the main female characters. When I think back on the MG and YA classics I read, most had male leads (sometimes male animal leads). I enjoyed Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing, Super Fudge (and all the related Fudge books), Charlotte’s Web, Ralph S. Mouse, The Outsiders, The Hobbit, How To Eat Fried Worms, Shiloh, Stuart Little, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, James and the Giant Peach, The Witches… I could go on, but you get the picture. Side note: Many of these books were written by women though they contained male main characters.
I wonder if people freaked out because girls appeared underrepresented and sought to create more female main characters. In trying to create a balance, the pendulum swung back the whole other way. For a while, female main characters dominated MG and YA and, for the most part, still do. Boys went from being the heroes of the tale to the love interests helping to facilitate the story.
I applaud the efforts of writers like Rick Riordan who are bringing back the strong male lead while including an equally strong female lead as his complement. Like Beauty and the Beast and Rapunzel, the Percy Jackson series seeks to strike a delicate balance, engaging and uplifting both males and females.
I’m curious to hear your thoughts. What books do you think strike a good male/female balance? Do you prefer male main characters to be written by males, or do you think females can write from a male perspective just as convincingly?
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Thank you again, Josh!
Until next time,