The role of urban fantasy…

…and the kick-ass heroine.

Came across an interesting article by Jennifer de Guzman about the female audience need for a female superhero. Well, you know, I followed the links to the XY asshole type who said, “No, you really don’t.” Then I went to Jezebel’s post. Read them all, then come back. Josh Tyler (who knows what women want) posts:

Catching bad guys is not a common female fantasy.

Hey, you know, lemme go back in time to my 7-year-old self and tell Little Miss Batgirl that. (Notwithstanding BatGIRL opens up a whole host of other topics and is problematic in itself.) He further digs his hole:

Men are interested in imagining themselves as ass-kicking heroes. Women are interested in movies about relationships and romance and love.

Now, this discussion falls under the two of my pet topics: The definition of feminism and the gatekeepers, the gatekeepers in this case being filmmakers. And I gotta say, I can think of only one filmmaker who does the female superhero well (albeit not in WonderWomanish garb): Quentin Tarantino. And he made a lot of money exploiting the hell out of her. What does he know that Josh Tyler doesn’t?

Better yet, what does genre romance know that Tyler doesn’t? This is where the genre romance gatekeepers have stepped up to the plate and it’s where women will find their superheroes, albeit it not in graphix or on celluloid.

It’s the kick-ass heroine in urban fantasy. They don’t have a Batgirl or Wonder Woman outfit. They don’t have a golden lasso or an invisible plane. Sometimes they don’t come from a mysterious Other World. They have leather. They have a tramp stamp. They have guns or cross bows or daggers or swords or a combination. They prowl the streets looking for wrongs to right and bad guys who need an ass-whoopin’. Yes, yes, I hear Buffy’s name being screamed from the rooftops, but she’s not part of this discussion because…

…most of these setups (unfortunately) involve otherworldly paranormal goo-drooling and blood-drinking types, and, quite frankly, I get tired of the endless fighting of the supernatural. How ’bout some human baddies? (This is one reason I love Beatrix Kiddo just so damned much.)

Aside: I’m not talking about kick-ass heroines whose JOB it is to be kick-ass. I’m talking about the ordinary woman pulled into extraordinary circumstances and who rises to the occasion [ahem, EILIS], or the anti-heroine who exists outside a societal structure and takes on the role of vigilante as a form of service to society (with hopes of paying restitution or redemption or at least a few cosmic brownie points) [ahem, GISELLE]. Or—better yet—a heroine who starts her journey being a milquetoast and ends up with a spine of steel [ahem, JUSTICE]. After all, we’re not born kick-ass. Life makes us or breaks us that way and the hero’s journey has never been just for men.

So here again we see that the gatekeepers (in this case, filmmakers) don’t know their audience well enough to exploit another revenue stream—but genre romance does! We’ve been subsisting on these women for decades (can you say “pirate queen”?). Clarissa Pinkola Estés even wrote a little book about the kick-ass heroine, her history, and her place in our evolutionary collective subconscious, so this?

Men are interested in imagining themselves as ass-kicking heroes. Women are interested in movies about relationships and romance and love.

He really needs to go talk to Dr. Estés or at least read her book.

Tarantino! Thurman! Thank you for The Bride. I love her. (And all of her wicked evil baddie stepsisters, too!) Now, step up to the plate and give us a female superhero only with spandex this time, ’kay? Call me!

Favorite kick-ass heroines. Who are yours?


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