Scroll down for a SNEAK PEEK of the cover art for Honor Among Orcs!
It's easy to consider, and even treat these women as throwaways. The Token Female Character in a male-dominated world. There just to pretend like they were considering girls as an audience, or at least not ruling them out of possible co-existence. But these women served a valuable, even indispensable role in the story. They were the connection with the rest of the world, the protector and keeper of the secret of their existence, the partner in their continued adventures. Sometimes they needed saving, sure, but mostly they provided a lot more benefits to the team than the team gave them back. And not only that, they were the lens through which we saw the reasonable acceptance of the other. They were the stand in for all those little boys who imagined discovering the sewer lair of mutant-monsters-who-fought-for-good.
Think about that. For a period of time in the late 80's and 90's, it was totally legit story telling to allow a woman to be the lens through which we, as the audience, experienced something new. Imagine if it still were! Imagine if the live action Transformers movies had, in place of Shia's hapless Sam Witwicky, included a street-smart female mechanic as the main character through which we met and befriended these strange aliens (and not just the love interest and sexual object for Sam).
Oh, we still see it sometimes -- Jane in the Thor films, for example -- but often times, instead of the woman being a bridge for the Other, instead of being a capable every-man lens through which we're watching the film and experiencing something new, she's now relegated to the role of love interest, or T&A for the male audience. And we're INTENSELY critical of her character. Why is Thor interested in Jane Foster at all? Who needs Lois Lane when Superman could be with Wonder Woman? Or worse, we see books and movies where, because that lens through which we experience the Other is female, the entire story is classified and sold solely to a female audience -- as if men could not possibly have any interest -- or even, never made at all because "no one wants to see an action movie with a female lead."*
But why? Where did this idea come from? If we were all raised on these cartoons "for boys" with April O'Neil and Elisa Maza, and those cartoons certainly had no lack of success, why should the same formula not be totally legitimate now in modern film, television, and movies? Why do we need Sam Witwicky when we could have Charlene AKA Charley the Biker Mice From Mars Mechanic? Are we more accepting of the Lady-as-Lens when she's facing off with an OTHER which is so strange we can't imagine any feelings beyond friendship? And if so, why? Or is it just that now we're more accepting of a Lady falling in love with a Beast/Monster/Mutant, and so the Lady-as-Lens isn't safe anymore, because of some potential idea of sexual attraction? But why does that matter, either? Why does a romance invalidate female characters as capable everyman stand-ins?
I'm not going to lie, one of the things I wanted to see MOST in Gargoyles was Elisa and Goliath finally getting together. I would have had no problem seeing April pair off with one of the Ninja Turtles, either -- though I'm not sure about the mechanics, for either pairing. But I also didn't have any problem with women and men as friends, creating and building community between them that had nothing to do with sex or romance. In fact, I think it's underrated, and we could use a lot more of it in our television, films, and books.
But of course, I say this as someone whose next book, Honor Among Orcs, is another beauty and the beast story** that doesn't shy away from the romance. And speaking of which -- Tune in THURSDAY (Thor's Day!!!) for the fabulous and fantastic Cover Reveal for the first book in the Orc Saga! And check out this sneakiest of peeks in the meantime!
*There are exceptions to this too, characters like Lara Croft in Tomb Raider, for example, which is definitely a property that's geared to appeal to a male audience, in spite of the protagonist's gender. But look at how Hunger Games is marketed. Would we be merchandising with cover girl if Katniss had been a boy? If Peeta had been the protagonist instead? You could change the perspective from which the story is told -- send Gale to the Arena instead of Peeta, and written from Gale's Point of View, and still have told the exact same story.
**TMNT, Biker Mice, and Gargoyles are ALL 100% beauty and the beast stories, imho. What is more OTHER than human sized mutant animals, or mythological monsters?