Sunday, December 20, 2015

The Good Shepard

I'm not excited about the new Star Wars movie. In fact, not even interested enough to challenge the weather and see it in a theater; I can wait for the DVD. But I've noticed an interesting split in impressions of it. Specifically, that many commenters at various of the blogs I follow have enthusiastically adopted it as "their" Star Wars movie -- because it offers a female character they can identify with.

Oddly enough, this character is one of the reasons I was disinclined to race out to see the movie. Or, rather, what I thought I was seeing in the advertising; another of those colorless and interchangeable faux action girls (to use the TVTropes term) that serve as the thin pretense of diversity for so many mass media products. Apparently this character is better than that, though; even much better. Even if this hard-bitten fighter is clearly (from the images I've seen) touching up her make-up between lightsabre duels.

Which is one of those odd details I've included in my own fanfic. My Lara Croft is careful to explain at one juncture just how much work and how many little jars "from the best Parisian suppliers" goes into maintaining that fresh-faced All Natural look.

And, yeah. The concept of identification. Having a female Jedi who doesn't serve as eye candy or hostage de jour or other peripheral role to the default male (white, straight) heroes. Why some game characters never speak, why others can be tailored in appearance, race, gender. Or species, depending on the game; apparently the choice of avatar is rather more complex than simply having one that looks just like you.

My Shep (Mass Effect) was female, and non-white. And when I remember that, I realize that most of my writing has also taken a distaff POV. First character I ever wrote extensively with was Laura Wilkinson. Who actually started as a secondary character in someone else's story, but even fourteen-year-old me couldn't stomach a blatant damsel in distress scenario and ended up recasting the whole thing from her point of view. And of course giving her a whole lot more agency.

My first attempt at a novel starred Kimberly Velaquez (who was a conscious stereotype, the hard-bitten female PI that was appearing with some frequency in detective fiction in I think the 1980's). The second was built around Mie Nakamura (who owed her origin to anime but quickly grew into the only appropriate character to tell a story of trying to do the right thing against increasing social pressure, both external and strongly internalized). And my current cross-over pic started with the intentions of giving Stargate SG1 equal billing but they have been largely overshadowed by the forthright personality of late classic era (aka Tomb Raider: Underworld) Lara Croft.

And, yeah, my attempt to write a new novel around a sound man for the "Elves with Guitars" (also a thing that was going around at least a couple decades ago...Emma Bull's The War for the Oaks probably the Ur-work here) may be foundering on my inability to properly mesh with a male protagonist. Now that's food for thought. (Adding to the problem, I originally cast Brendan Marshall to be as Standard Model Hollywood Hero as possible, aka the "normal guy" who is more average than any real human being is capable of. The more I try to go more interesting with his character, though, the more I can't seem to figure out just where I'm going with it all).

Somewhat like this essay.

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