Posted by: markfender | November 24, 2015

Some Tropes

I’ve been noticing a new trope recently.

Mirror_Mirror_2012But it’s not a new trope. It’s just changed genders.

We all know the complaints about women in movies. We’ve even devised ‘tests’ to complain about their roles (like the Bechdel test or the latest, Fleshlight with a Post-It Note Test). These complaints are not unfounded, of course.

And we’ve been recently seeing a broader swath of stories where women don’t get shoehorned into their typical roles, where they actually have agency and get to do stuff and have complex moral journeys. From Mirror, Mirror to Korra, women have been taking control of their own narratives. Orphan Black and Jane the Virgin have been doing good work on television in creating a feminist narrative. That’s all well and good. But it’s just creating new stereotype characters who just happen to be male this time.

For one, the Super Supportive Boyfriend – the guy who stands behind the heroine. He’s super understanding, is willing to take care of the children while the heroine goes off to save the day, and generally has her best interests above his own. And now we’re just reversing the traditional adventure story and its roles.

Now, I get that I’m a male complaining about women here on the internet. I’m not against these gender-swapped stories and I expect to see more and more of them as women maybe get to actually tell stories and stuff in our popular media (the ones mentioned above are all good. Yes, even Jane the Virgin). But it just seems like it’s perpetuating the same problems that women complained about in the first place before they got enough agency in Hollywood to make their own stories. Can’t both genders have their own character arcs? Can’t stories be a little more complicated and not reduce the secondary characters to window dressing, regardless of gender? Or is it just that most of our modern media is just so formulaic that there’s no room for making every character interesting? Somebody’s going to be become window dressing, it’s just maybe switched genders.

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