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Archive for February, 2014

I have a theory about little girls reading. Particularly little girls reading classic heroic tales. Because it is (from a longitudinal perspective) a fairly recent phenomenon to have female heroines that aren’t sidekicks in stories, little girls reading the truly classical classics – you know, the ones where 96% of the heroes are guys, those little girls have the weirdest literary crushes.

When it comes to little boys, it’s pretty straight forward, the little boy wants to be the hero. He envisions himself as Robin Hood or a misunderstood but heroic Peter Parker, or perhaps a valiant Aragorn. Or, some little boys who are more “realistic dreamers” (seemingly an oxymoron, I know…) envision themselves being wingmen to these guys, or variations of these guys, like maybe not the Batman, but a Bruce Wayne sort of character in their own story.

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You want to be me little boy? Sure! No need to bypass anything, just BE ME!

 

But girls have it a bit more complicated. Most female characters have another agenda than being a pure hero. In a better scenario they are a supportive sidekick to the megahero, or they are there for a more diffuse purpose which the young girl may sense on some level but which in most cases cannot really be bought as a hero package. The girl in the tale is almost always pretty, so the little girl gets that that’s the way to be. She is often, but not always, the love interest of a male character, which is interesting, but ultimately a whole other ballgame than being a hero. Most often she is a princess or damsel who needs saving or is at best a form of inspiration to the hero. In really generous cases the girl gets to show that she can be a little brave or admirable too, but just that one scene in the spotlight, where she gets an appreciative nod from the real hero.

We can have discussions about modern  children’s and YA culture, where some of those stereotypes are changing, but the glacier doesn’t melt that fast, and many canonical stories still are as they were.

There are several role models for girls, but are there that many heroic role models for all humans, portrayed by females? And it’s hard to count revamped princesses produced by Disney Pixar into this category. The type of hero that is so canonical no one would even dream of questioning her. So straightforward  that little boys and girls both would look up to her. They may exist, but it’s not easy for me to come to think of one.

So little girls, when they crush on a hero have a mixed dilemma. Their brains need to bypass the issue of Robin Hood being a boy and themselves being girls. So they often get this mixed bag of heroic crush and mirror dream at the same time. You crush on the person you want to be.

Everybody may not work like this, but I did, and many of my friends did. Later on, in puberty, I had “normal” crushes as well, but those are different. You don’t necessarily want to be an aspect of that person, you mostly want that person to get it on with some worthy woman who will then playact an aspect of yourself. So, basically hero crush and romantic crush are apples and oranges – both fruit, but different.

To give an example; these are the heroes I hero crushed on – literary individuals I wanted to be rather than be with, and thus my brain created a bypass surgery for itself to make that possible in my daydreams:

Frodo from Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings

Michael Strogoff from Jules Verne’s MIchael Strogoff

Robin Hood

Snufkin from Tove Jansson’s Moomin books

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Michale Strogoff was the man, a pity I didn’t have the actual cojones to be him

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And Snufkin, oh how I wanted to be Snufkin…

These were all characters that I had strong feelings for as a child, but not technically characters I wanted to romance. I wanted to be Michael Strogoff, brave and stoic courier of the Tsar! The 8 year old me playacted those adventures with my friends. And when we watched the old Anime Poenix 2772, we wanted to be Godo, not boink him, we wanted to be Jedi knights, not date them.

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Who wouldn’t want to be Godo…

This is what some guys who are not fathers of daughters still don’t get. We girls, don’t usually want to be the classical heroine damsel. We want to be the heroic  iconic hero, regardless of gender. Children are wired like that before they get brainwashed, they all want to be admirable and heroic, and they don’t get that some heroics are earmarked only for certain groups.

Then, when we’re older, we have romantic literary crushes, but we still have heroic crushes as well. For example, I had literary heroic crushes on these guys:

Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes

Neil Gaiman’s Sandman

Alan Moore’s John Constantine

But I had romantic crushes on:

Tanith Lee’s Silver from The Silver Metal Lover

Jane Austen’s Mr. Darcy from Pride and Prejudice

Joss Wedon’s Giles from Buffy The Vampire Slayer

Let’s face it, my best daydreamer Valentine’s date would probably be if I were a female John Constantine (rocking that trench coat!), who worked on the side as the brave courier of the Tsar and was going to destroy the ring of power at Mount Doom. I would then, in between doing all that, sit in a cozy tavern with a sulking Mr. Darcy glaring at me, a kindly Giles discussing books with me and a dashing Silver, playing his guitar for me.

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Imagine me like this, only cuter, non smoking and with a vagina!

 

Yeah, I think I’ll do just that tonight, in my dreams!

What literary people did you have a heroic or romantic crush on?

Oh, and Happy Valentine’s Day, may you bend it to your will and create whatever you want out of it!

 

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Take it away Silver, you’re still among my top 3 Valentine dates!

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