Male vs. Female Protagonists:

Total posts: [98]
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76 ohsointocats24th Dec 2011 04:48:26 PM from The Sand Wastes , Relationship Status: Showing feelings of an almost human nature
[up] They probably do. The only things they don't really manage to categorize is wish-fulfillment for the same gender.
77 nrjxll24th Dec 2011 06:28:44 PM , Relationship Status: Not war
Frankly, even by the low standards of character classification systems, I think yours is pretty limited. This is not a good way to describe either real people or fictional characters.

And for the record, I don't even know who Chuck Palaniuk is.

edited 24th Dec '11 6:29:13 PM by nrjxll

He wrote Fight Club.
Rabid Fujoshi
Yeah, I don't really, get/agree with Cat's breakdown either. It might have some basis but it's grossly over simplified to the point of being useless, IMO. Or it might just not have been explained very well. I don't know.
SPATULA, Supporters of Page Altering To Urgently Lead to Amelioration (supports not going through TRS for tweaks and minor improvements.)
80 ohsointocats24th Dec 2011 08:16:50 PM from The Sand Wastes , Relationship Status: Showing feelings of an almost human nature
I have been known to be notoriously bad at explaining things.
Rabid Fujoshi
Then that could be it.
SPATULA, Supporters of Page Altering To Urgently Lead to Amelioration (supports not going through TRS for tweaks and minor improvements.)
I think I understand it... but it IS a bit tricky to explain.
83 ohsointocats24th Dec 2011 08:41:42 PM from The Sand Wastes , Relationship Status: Showing feelings of an almost human nature
[up] Can you try? I'm obviously doing a bad job of it. :/
Let's see, from what I understood;

A "realistic" female character is a female character that shows a lot of ugliness of the gender and is often reserved in works geared towards the gender. A good example of this would be Wintergirls. To show how broad this could be, My Little Pony would also be a good one. A male example would be Fight Club.

This is basically describing characters that highlight certain issues that are typical of, or specific to the given gender; works for men that employ characters like these would portray topics that might be male-specific (Fight Club being a notable example here). There is an emphasis on how the cultural expectations for their gender affect their behaviour, with the unique problems that arise as a result. Quite a few female characters are also written this way; in fact, I think it might be more common to portray women in this manner than it would be for men, since men are often the gender that is defaulted to when people write characters (as this thread has shown)* . This isn't necessarily limited to gender dynamics; any culturally enforced division can be portrayed in this way with any given character. It also needn't be the main subject of the story; it's just one where gender (or race, ethnicity, age, or really, any division one wants to create) is a clear influence on the character's personality.

An "archetypical" female character is a main character who just has a slightly female flavor. Her problems may or may not be based in gender, but her flaws are not. Archetypical characters are meant to appeal to both sexes. A good example of this is Tiana from The Princess and the Frog. There are not a whole bunch of characters like this. A male example would be Harry Potter. This shows how pervasive a male character is in this position.

This is basically any character that's not written with gender in mind. They are written simply to be characters, and while they are normally clearly male or female, their gender has very little to do with their portrayal in-story. It's much more common to see men playing this role than it is to see women, because again, males tend to be the default gender when authors are creating characters. Like the previous category, this isn't limited to gender.

An "idealized" female character is a main character who has a female flavor and is meant to appeal to men therefore has feminine traits that appeal to men and are stripped of feminine traits that do not appeal to men. This pretty much holds the entirety of "hot chicks in leather kicking ass" genre but there are other subtler versions too. There's also the reverse, male characters who are meant to appeal to women. I can't really think of any good examples off the top of my head, but you know what I mean.

This is a character who's basically meant to appeal to the opposite gender* . So, this character panders to whatever the reader's supposed positive bias (or, much more likely, the author's) toward that gender is going to be. A female character who's meant to appeal to men is going to look quite a bit different from a female character who's meant to appeal to women; the same goes for male characters meant to appeal to women and male characters meant to appeal to men specifically. They aren't necessarily a token character, but they are meant to show characteristics that the author (almost always the author, whether deliberately or not) or women/men would find appealing in a man/woman.

To get a better idea of it, it might help to see it as a continuum between idealization and realism rather than a strict categorization, since I don't think I've seen a character who's managed to be both realistic and idealized (unless Tyler Durden and the narrator count), but I have seen "archetypical" characters that leaned toward one side or the other. Now, being on any part of this scale isn't necessarily a good or bad thing (some stories are better served without gender complications slowing things down, others might need the extra dose of realism), but it can help to see if you're adding characters only to be Fanservice (something which I think most writers have been guilty of doing, though probably not always on purpose), or, conversely, if you've made your characters a wee bit too androgynous for the story's purpose.

edited 24th Dec '11 10:18:07 PM by tropetown

85 nrjxll24th Dec 2011 10:02:48 PM , Relationship Status: Not war
If that's an accurate summary, then I agree with ohsointocats after all - we need a lot more "archetypal" female characters.
I'd agree with that; it's pretty common to see fictional women going on one end or the other, but not so common to see females in fiction that are simply characters, not the token woman. That's because, again, whenever people need to fill a space with any given character, they often find themselves thinking that by making someone female, they need a reason to explain the deviation from the norm. It's mostly a product of our culture, though, and it's easy to make female characters like that if the author is making a conscious effort to avoid that line of thinking.
87 ohsointocats24th Dec 2011 10:20:24 PM from The Sand Wastes , Relationship Status: Showing feelings of an almost human nature
[up][up][up] Pretty much, but again, tropes are not bad. There's not really a particular problem about an "idealized" character and a "realistic" character is not necessarily better. Also, a "realistic" character necessarily has to show traits that the opposite sex would not want to see (assuming heterosexuality, or not, even... it's complicated). So you can divide it by "realistic" shows things that the opposite sex would not want to see, "archetypical" shows things that the opposite sex is neutral towards, and the "idealized" especially portrays things that the opposite sex wants to see.

I also think idealized portrayals of women and mean meant to appeal to their respective sex probably deserves its own category, but I'm not sure what to call it. Wish fulfillment? ...something, it doesn't quite fit.

However, it does seem to explain a strange phenomenon — most writers and readers are women, yet most of the mainstream fiction to appeal to both sexes still often has male protagonists. I think what's happening is most women who write women lean heavily towards realistic women. They might prefer this, but I don't think it's necessarily their fault. It's what's popular and what publishers want, and I also think that either men or publishers think that men don't want to read women as main character, so even female characters with more archetypical leanings get shoved into the realistic category when they might not be. The archetypical part of the spectrum is very heavily populated by male characters because of this. I also think that there's not a whole lot of realistic male characters published either due to political correctness or because of the idea that men don't read fiction for fun.

So yeah, it's a continuum, but some parts of the continuum are less populated than others.

edited 24th Dec '11 10:20:46 PM by ohsointocats

I also think it's strange that idealized males meant to appeal to men are quite common, but idealized females meant to appeal to women are less so, at least, where published fiction is concerned. Usually, when an idealized female meant to appeal to women is created, she'll be accused of being a Mary Sue; now, whether that's an indication of an unfair Double Standard, or whether it means that male characters are idealized in ways that might serve a story better than the way female characters are, is debatable.

The reason, I think, that fiction meant to appeal to both genders usually has a male protagonist is, quite simply, that there is an idea that boys aren't going to want to read about a female protagonist. It might be because there is a more acceptable level of idealization when writing male protagonists than there is when writing female ones (assuming, in this case, that the idealization is meant for people that are the same sex as the character), so female protagonists tend toward the realistic, while male protagonists tend toward the idealized. Guys might feel a bit more uncomfortable with the more "realistic" female protagonist (since, as you said before, realistic would basically mean "showing traits that the opposite gender wouldn't want to see"), while girls might be better able to adjust to a slightly idealized male protagonist (since the idealized traits tend to appeal to both men and women).

edited 24th Dec '11 11:17:09 PM by tropetown

Shadowed Philosopher
Male here, I usually think male protagonists in my concepts, but by the time they get to actual writing in any form it tends to balance itself out. The one original story is centered around two characters, male/female; while I thought of the male as the protagonist while I was developing it, they really sort of make a single whole decent protagonist by amalgamation of their traits (he gets immediate reaction, battle competence and such, she gets driving the plot along since he's basically a robot with orders 'protect'). The other, which is not developed to the point of writing, is based around an ensemble cast all along, and I can't really say which gender will get the more interesting characters, not having gotten there yet. Regarding writing's just like writing men, except they're female. tongue Which is more or less my way of saying that I don't write them particularly differently except where the actual fact of their gender is relevant; they're all people, after all.
Shinigan (Naruto fanfic)
90 ohsointocats24th Dec 2011 11:19:43 PM from The Sand Wastes , Relationship Status: Showing feelings of an almost human nature
[up][up] I don't think it's about "mary sues".

There's this idea that guys do not want to read about a female protagonist, but I think it's more that people think guys don't want to identify with a female protagonist. There are female main characters in works geared towards men but they're viewed from the outside rather than from the inside.

Again whether this is true or not, or if it's just a myth perpetuated by publishers. Like, you can point to Bronies and such, but guys are criticized for this outside outside of the fandom so it might not be a major part of the demographic.

However, it does seem to explain a strange phenomenon most writers and readers are women, yet most of the mainstream fiction to appeal to both sexes still often has male protagonists

92 ohsointocats25th Dec 2011 08:52:30 AM from The Sand Wastes , Relationship Status: Showing feelings of an almost human nature
[up] I don't know for sure about writers, but I know about readers. Most readers are women.

The trope Most Writers Are Male I think mostly applies to things other than modern novels.

edited 25th Dec '11 8:54:52 AM by ohsointocats

93 nrjxll25th Dec 2011 01:57:07 PM , Relationship Status: Not war
I'd really like to see some evidence on that "most readers are women" thing.
94 ohsointocats25th Dec 2011 02:02:06 PM from The Sand Wastes , Relationship Status: Showing feelings of an almost human nature

"Men account for only 20 percent of the fiction market, according to surveys conducted in the U.S., Canada and Britain."
95 nrjxll25th Dec 2011 02:06:21 PM , Relationship Status: Not war

For the record, I think Most Writers Are Male is more of a "Hollywood" thing then it's present in literature.

edited 25th Dec '11 2:08:01 PM by nrjxll

The Puzzler
I wonder what surveys these were and the specific information of how they came to that conclusion. [[/offtopic]]
Has ADD, plays World of Tanks, thinks up crazy ideas like children making spaceships for Hitler. Occasionally writes them down.
97 chihuahua025th Dec 2011 03:06:52 PM from Standoff, USA , Relationship Status: I LOVE THIS DOCTOR!
Writer's Welcome Wagon
Generally the gender of the writer matches the targeted demographic. For example, comic books usually have male writers and readers, romance and YA novels usually have female writers and readers, there's Hollywood.

There're lots of exceptions, but that's the general trend.

[up] Uh, no.

It is not a trend, but it is notoriously difficult for women to break into the comic and Hollywood industries, especially comedies. Both are famous for being Boys Clubs. I can't speak to Romance and Young Adult literature, but if you read the recent essay collections of Tina Fey and Mindy Kaling, or some of the comments from the higher-ups at DC, then you'll see what I'm talking about.

edited 25th Dec '11 7:07:44 PM by BetsyandtheFiveAvengers

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Total posts: 98
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