Enough with the good girls – bring on the Villainesses!

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Princesses are among the worst offenders when it comes to “teaching” our girls about being a girl and growing up to become a woman. What princesses care most about is being pretty, kind and finding a husband/prince. They’re passive and rarely in charge of their lives.

Charlize Theron as the Evil Queen in Snow White and the Huntsman

I’ve had enough of princesses, please bring on the Villainesses! So much pressure is put on our girls to be “the good girl”. Girls should be nice, girls should be good, girls should be sexy but not give it away, girls should be nurturing, girls shouldn’t be too loud… There are just so many (bad and conflicting)  messages being pushed on them without allowing them to live out their whole self. Not one of us is entirely good, or entirely evil, and it’s time we let our girls know that, and that it is ok! Girls need to at times be able to symphatize with charachters who aren’t just “good”. This doesn’t mean that I believe we should “teach our children to be evil” (I’ve actually heard this comment), but to just expose them to “good” characters isn’t doing them any favors either! It’s good for children to see that sometimes, who is good and who is evil depends on from what side you are viewing the story…

I have high, and maybe vain, hopes for the 2013-premiere of the movie Maleficent – told from the perspective of Sleeping Beauty’s nemesis; Maleficent. I’m hoping we will get to see why she behaves the way she does, what makes her “evil” or appear “evil” in our eyes?

This might be a way to read Charlize Theron’s portrayal of the Evil Queen in Snow White and the Huntsman, according to Alyssa Rosenberg who writes that she is intrigued by the character since she “speaks of giving her fallen world the ruler it deserves, who commands armies and welcomes challenges” – hearing this as the description of a fairy tale king wouldn’t make you raise an eyebrow, but the portrayal of a queen behaving the same way might.  A queen might have a bigger challenge in keeping with being good and at the same time ruling with an iron fist than her male counterpart…

Jennifer Lawrence as Katniss Everdeen in The Hunger Games

Although not a villain, Katniss Everdeen from The Hunger Games is a good example of a more real, complex female character (at least in the books). She is brave and she is scared, she is a hunter and a nurturer, a daughter forced to act as a mother for her younger sister. She isn’t preoccupied by her looks or finding a husband – she is fighting to survive even before she enters the Hunger Games. And Katniss is filled with different, sometimes conflicting, thoughts and emotions – just like any other girl. Katniss inhabits more than one role at a time, instead of being reduced to the sweet princess-type (this is discussed better here).

We need more complex female characters in literature and on the screen!  Because our kids, sons and daughters, need to know that the world isn’t black and white. More complex characters is a way of conveying that message  to them; that sometimes people make choices that make them look bad for reasons we can actually understand, and sometimes they seem evil because they are inhabiting the wrong gender for our society to allow them to act in certain ways; to show them that there is more than just good or bad; that there is more to people than their surface; and that they have more choices than they might think.

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4 thoughts on “Enough with the good girls – bring on the Villainesses!

    Libby said:
    April 5, 2012 at 18:26

    Excellent analysis (and topic). Though I don’t know that I identify with the villainess, I never did identify w/the helpless ingenue either. There’s a middle ground somewhere where we’re all allowed to be ourselves. As you said, complex characters who can’t be so easily defined.

      Jennifer Larancuent responded:
      April 5, 2012 at 19:12

      Gracias Libby! I remember feeling bad for the evil queen in Snow White, and being intrigued by her. But I think girls are being even more bombarded with the cute princesses today than we were (from what I remember there wasn’t that much to choose from and not this massive exposure of princesses). I really hope that will change soon.

    Laura said:
    April 13, 2012 at 14:14

    As a conservative mom raising 2 girls, I agree that we need more complex female characters. Did you happen to see the recent Japanese animation movie about Arriety? She isn’t a princess but I was so happy to see such a real kid, with all her emotions and bravery on the cartoon screen. Her story portayed the most complex character for kids I have seen in a long time. You should check it out. Found your blog doing a search on raising girls.

      Jennifer Larancuent responded:
      April 13, 2012 at 21:34

      Hi Laura! I’m happy you found my blog. I will def look into Arriety, have never heard of it before and I’m really happy to hear about more complex characters out there! I’ll check out your blog too 🙂

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