We’re Moving to FeministFiction.com

June 29, 2012 § Leave a comment

As the site has grown quite a lot in the last month (thanks and welcome to all the fabulous new readers!), I’m moving it off WordPress and onto its own domain.

The new site is already (mostly) up at www.feministfiction.com, and automatic forwarding from this address should start working tomorrow-ish. Please forgive me if there are any hiccups along the way!

If you follow the blog by RSS and would like to keep doing so, please update it to this one.

I hope I’ll see you there. ūüôā

Link Roundup

June 29, 2012 § Leave a comment

The American Prospect talks about the secret subversiveness of Little Women.

feministwhoniverse have posted a masterlist explaining why Steven Moffat’s attitudes are problematic (or, as they say, why he is a douchebag).

Classic novels by female authors are getting the YA treatment to lure in younger readers, says the NYT.

The BBC ask what 50 Shades of Grey’s popularity is doing for suburban bookshops.

YA author Malinda Lo looks at the statistics for LGBT characters in 2012’s new releases.

Claudia Grey criticizes the trend of saying “I’m not like other girls.”

There are No True Knights: Brienne of Tarth

June 28, 2012 § 4 Comments

There are true knights, Sansa Stark thinks, as she flees from the Hound.¬†All the stories can’t be lies.

And Sansa might be right. She has one true knight searching for her, on the old story quest to rescue the fair maid and return her to her family. Brienne of Tarth is the only living character who values honor above all else, who is determined to keep all her vows, who respects life and wants to protect the weak.

She is also, of course, an unattractive woman, despised and mocked by almost everyone she encounters. She is not technically a knight. She has all the inner qualities of the storybook hero and none of the external qualities, in a world where appearances and superficialities are all that seem to count. She is a woman who does not seem to fit anywhere in her world.

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The Manic Pixie Dreamgirl

June 27, 2012 § 1 Comment

A couple of weeks ago, I wrote about “Mary Sue” and how it’s become a problematic, catch-all term for any female character who seems “too good.”

But in the last year, I’ve seen another term going around to describe and dismiss female characters: Manic Pixie Dreamgirl.

The Manic Pixie Dreamgirl, like the Mary Sue, had a genuine critical origin. The term was originally used to describe zany, freespirited female characters who exist solely to teach the depressed, overworked male protagonist how to see the brighter side of life. (Feminist Frequency goes into more depth here).

I say originally, because the term has mutated to the point that it is used even if a female character is well-developed and the center of her own story. It’s used to immediately dismiss any female character who is not completely mature and sensible, who is a bit hipster and unconventional, who has a sense of fun, as “not good enough.”

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Legend by Marie Lu

June 26, 2012 § Leave a comment

If I had to describe Legend in one word, it would be this: unputdownable.

This novel disrupted my sleep. It kept me up far too late, distracted me while I was trying to work, and made me google the release date of the sequel the moment I turned the final page. In the flood of YA dystopian novels, Legend is the true heir to The Hunger Games: action-packed, dark and emotional, with compelling characters and a wonderfully woven plot.

June is the Republic’s greatest prodigy. Intelligent, resilient, analytical, observant, agile and strong, she is eager to join the military and serve the great Elector, like her brother and parents have before her. Day is a slum-dweller and the Republic’s most wanted criminal, desperate to protect his estranged family from the plague that is spreading through their district. When Day kills June’s older brother in a raid for plague cures, June is recruited to lead the hunt for his capture.

Legend¬†is the sort of novel that will make you think “just one more chapter,” over and over again, late into the night. The plot is absolutely gripping, hurtling forwards at the perfect pace, but the characters are what really make this novel shine. June and Day are both complicated and compelling individuals, with emotional arcs that feel incredibly genuine.¬†Sometimes the inevitable romance feels a little forced, in an “I’ve known you three days, and I love you!” kind of way, but their relationship usually takes a backseat to June’s growing discoveries about the government she works for, the endless moral dilemmas, and their struggles to do the right thing, whatever that might turn out to be.

Legend isn’t going to win any awards for beautiful prose or insightful social commentary, but if you’re looking for a dark, fast-paced action-adventure with a fabulous and complex female protagonist, definitely check this one out.

The Lizzie Bennet Diaries

June 25, 2012 § Leave a comment

Everyone is watching this, right? If not, set aside about an hour and get stuck in.

The Lizzie Bennet¬†Diaries¬†is a retelling of¬†Jane Austen’s¬†Pride and Prejudice in the form of video blogs, with some additional help from Twitter, Tumblr and Facebook. The series is a really interesting experiment in using modern social media to tell a classic story, and it’s incredibly fun to watch events unfold in real time every week.

Although romance and the stoic Mr Darcy play major roles in the story,¬†The Lizzie Bennet Diaries focuses on many elements of the original novel that are often overlooked. The relationship between the three sisters, Jane, Lizzie and Lydia, takes center stage, as they support and challenge one another as best friends and barely-tolerated siblings. Lizzie’s lifelong friendship with wannabe filmmaker Charlotte also plays a major role, and the occasional tension between Lizzie’s optimism and Charlotte’s cynical pragmatism is laying the ground for a painful shift in their friendship as the story goes on.

Darcy and “Bing Lee” get a look in every now and again, but so far the story is all about these sisters and friends and their relationships, ambitions, hopes, dreams and fears, as well as more mundane life problems: money, family, education, and employment. Basically¬†Pride and Prejudice then, in a modern context, with misguided stereotypes of whirlwind romance stripped away.

It’s great fun, whether you’re an Austen nerd like me or are just looking for another videoblog to add to your subscriptions. No Austen knowledge required! A geeky appreciation of Youtube and other social media may help, though.

A Song of Ice and Fire: misogynistic or feminist?

June 22, 2012 § 12 Comments

Every now and again, new articles appear criticizing George RR Martin’s¬†A Song of Ice and Fire for being misogynistic. Sometimes, these articles raise valid, thought-provoking points. More often, however, they criticize the series because its women are often powerless, because they are often abused, and because the world they live in does not value them or their opinion. Westeros is a misogynistic society, and therefore, they conclude, the text itself is¬†also misogynistic.

In my opinion, this analysis is seriously misguided. A series is not misogynistic simply because it presents and explores a highly misogynistic world. Far from it. In fact, although it has its issues, I would argue that A Song of Ice and Fire is a mostly feminist text, featuring fascinating, dynamic female characters in a variety of situations. The fact that these girls and women live in a deeply misogynistic world only adds to the realism of their struggles and ultimately  to the strength of their achievements.

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A Look Back at HBO’s Girls

June 21, 2012 § 1 Comment

Lena Dunham’s freshman show¬†Girls finished its first season on Sunday. Despite all the drama that’s been going around about it, I thought it was a good show. Not a¬†great show, but a good one.

Great shows, in my opinion, allow you to sympathize with characters and find a connection with them, even if they or their life situations are completely different from your own. As a good show, Girls allowed me to connect and sympathize with characters because, at many points in the show, their lives reminded me of my own.

People have criticized¬†Girls for attempting to be the “voice of our generation.” I don’t think it’s a voice of any generation, and neither do I think Lena Dunham intended it to be so. She told a story that reflected her own experiences as a young twenty-something wannabe artist, and something about that voice resonated with me, whether I’d like to admit it or not. Girls presents a cynical, painful look at life in New York as a recent college graduate, dealing with friends and relationships and insecurities and career ambitions that never quite work out. It’s not a particularly flattering portrayal, and it does not provoke laughs, despite being labelled a “comedy,” but its bleak episodes present one form of the post-college life in an unflinchingly real way.

The protagonist, Hannah, often comes off as arrogant or selfish, but this unintentional attitude covers up the fact that she is deeply, paralysingly insecure. She hates herself more than anybody else could hate her, and she worries constantly that her writing is insignificant, that she is going to be a failure, and that she deserves nothing else. She has a broken, needy relationship with a boy who initially does not seem to respect her, a fraying relationship with her best friend Marnie, and has bounced from unpaid internship to unpaid internship before finding a not-so-fulfilling job in a coffee shop. She’s definitely not always likeable, but she feels so¬†real, in a painful, I’m-not-sure-I-want-to-look kind of way.

Her best friend Marnie, meanwhile, is determined to be¬†grown up and sophisticated, for everything to fall into its neat little place, and cannot cope when it doesn’t. Despite everything being exactly as she would like at the beginning of the show, she’s deeply dissatisfied, although not fully ready to admit it. Finally, their friend Shoshanna suffers from total word-vomit, is completely neurotic and anxious, and finally gets pissed at the end of the season that no-one seems to respect her or take her seriously. I love her character, because it’s a far more realistic look at the “comedy ditzy girl,” where she is shy and insecure and socially awkward, to the point of often being unbearable, but she’s still a¬†person with goals and desires who feels crippled by her own insecurity.

There’s also Jessa, a “free-spirit” adventuring type, but her story was the only one that didn’t feel authentic to me. Perhaps her character is realistic to other people, but unlike the others, I have never met anyone quite so selfish and ungrounded and impetuous as she is, so her plotline (and particularly the way it ended) didn’t resonate with me.

I don’t think that¬†Girls is a show that you can either “get” or “not get,” or that it’s hipster-cool to like it, or that everyone should enjoy this admittedly uncomfortable and bleak show. I also don’t think it’s a perfect show; far from it. But despite the fact that every character is unlikeable on some level, I see elements of them and their lives all around me, and I am looking forward to that exploration continuing next season.

30 YA Love Triangles (that don’t involve two boys and a girl)

June 20, 2012 § 1 Comment

A couple of weeks ago, I wrote a post about the pervasiveness of love triangles in young adult literature, and the way that the “drama” they create can be harmful to the narrative and to the agency of the protagonist.

Yet novels must have conflict, and triangles can be an effective way of challenging the protagonist and showing her conflicting priorities and feelings. To show how easy it is to create more meaningful, realistic conflict, here are 30 examples of love triangles that are more than girl + boy + boy.

(I’m using girl + boy here to be consistent and to reflect the vast, vast majority of relationships in YA fiction. All of these would also work for girl + girl).

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This Is Not A Test by Courtney Summers

June 18, 2012 § Leave a comment

On the morning of the end of the world, Sloane Price decides to kill herself.

Then the zombies come.

Sloane finds herself locked up in a school with 5 other teenager survivors, fighting for survival. But unlike the others, Sloane isn’t so sure that she wants to survive.

This Is Not A Test is a zombie-apocalypse novel, but ultimately, the undead only provide the backdrop for a story about what it means to survive. Protagonist Sloane is a profoundly damaged heroine: a victim of domestic abuse, abandoned by her somewhat-controlling sister and plagued with nightmares and fears that have nothing to do with the zombies struggling to kill her. Some of the individuals she ends up fighting with are brave, good people, and some of them are not, but they all undone as the days tick by and no help comes. The characterization and depth of emotion in Summer’s writing is astounding, and it will pull you in, captivate you and break your heart. Although it’s not what traditional zombie-novel-lovers might expect (there’s minimal gore and the zombies are only seen a couple of times throughout the story), the novel tremors with psychological dread, and I found myself reading the entire thing in one sitting, until the sun was coming up again, because I simply could not leave the story for a moment.

This Is Not A Test¬†is the perfect novel to read on a stormy summer nights, when the power has gone out and you have to use a flashlight to read. The zombies will send a chill down your spine, but it’s the people in this novel that will haunt you long after you’re done.