Why are all female protagonists in Romance novels the same?
Ok, so that’s an overly generalised statement but you have to admit that you begin to notice a lot of shocking similarities when you’ve read enough of them. I’ve mentioned this in a few of my reviews now and began to feel a separate post coming on.
The most frequent stereotypes I find incredibly annoying:
A bored, relatively innocent woman but not necessarily a virgin, needs sexual awakening by a man who, by all written accounts, is much more interesting than her.
A relatively boring woman needs a man’s love to give her a story. Obtaining his love is therefore the defining moment in her life. He defines her.
I find that in these stories the male leads are given so much more depth. For me, a prime example of this (although Hannah will kill me for saying it) is Sherrilyn Kenyon’s Dark Hunter series. I’ll put my hands up now and admit that I haven’t read every single book in this series but thanks to Hannah, I’ve read my fair share. And the reason I keep returning to them has absolutely nothing to do with the female characters. It’s the men. After all they have great histories, an interesting mythology, exciting/dangerous jobs and are extremely good looking. While their female counterparts are just a bit meh in comparison. With the exception of Artemis and Simi, (but I mean come on, over 20 books and there only 2 women of any real interest?!) they usually fit into the basic models I have summarised above.
Don’t get me wrong, it’s not just her. Some of the most popular books of today are predicated on this brand of basic female characterisation. E .L. James’ 50 Shades series being at the top of its game. This has led me to believe that women are more often than not, used as simple plot devices in which the reader can then encounter the real star of the show, men.
Many Romance novelists claim that this is to allow the reader to become the female character. Some of you might remember when Stephanie Meyer argued that her characterisation of Bella enabled readers to identify with her, “There’s plenty of people who look like the girl next door,” after all. Therefore the ongoing justification seems to be, if “she” remains anonymous we can easily step into her shoes. She becomes the vessel in which we can immerse ourselves within the story.
But I call bullshit!
I didn’t have this problem with The Hunger Games and Katniss kicked so much ass.
That’s not to say I didn’t enjoy these books, my shelves are littered with them. I just wish more time was taken over the characterisation of women. I want more. I want strong, independent women. Emotional wrecks with mysterious pasts. Ambitiously driven women who conquer the boardroom. Badass heroines that save the world. Stay at home mothers who make the best apple pie in seven counties. Real women, with real problems. I don’t want the love they find to define them, but to be just another awesome chapter in the epic story of their lives. And if they just so happen to have great sex along the way then that’s just dandy! More power to you.