Sid has pointed out about my "character paradox" post the importance of multidimensionality in a character. Real people have multiple characteristics, whereas characters that are criticised as unrealistic often seem to have only one dimension. Burrough's John Carter of Mars was unfailingly heroic, for example, while the old pulp style villain was unfailingly evil. But "seem to have only one dimension" is a key phrase here. Many of the more pulpish characters that I like are criticized as one dimensional by more literary oriented readers and writers, but they are mistaken because they haven't read the stories closely enough. Take Conan the Cimmerian, the Robert E. Howard creation, for example.
Conan is often described as dumb, but the actual stories by Howard make it clear that Conan was, in fact, quite cunning. He was "naive" in the stories where he was supposed to be young, but well educated, at least in the school of hard knocks, in the stories where he was king. Conan's philosophy of life was relatively simple, in keeping with his roots as a barbarian, but a simple philosophy does not equal stupidity.
Also, Conan is often described as a testosterone driven oaf who treated women as nothing more than objects. It is true that Conan liked women and enjoyed sex, but in the actual Howard stories he did not treat all women alike. He acted differently toward a tavern wench than he did toward a female warrior. He could show respect for a woman or he could treat them indifferently. Whether you approve of his behavior or not, his behavior with women was not one dimensional.
Why do so many people hold the view of Conan that they do? I think because they associate Conan more with the Arnold movies than they do with the Robert E. Howard creation.
I use Conan as example here, but maybe the same could be said of many other pulpish heroes. Maybe the same could be said of the female characters in pulp fiction. Maybe they have more dimensions than most of us believe. Maybe we've judged those characters and the writers who created them too harshly. I wonder.