Wednesday, January 03, 2007

Realistic Female Characters?

C. S. Harris brought up an interesting point. Should we perhaps develop two lists of characters, one for those we find sexually appealing and another for those we like as characters in and of themselves. I’ve already put up my “sex appeal” list, so I started thinking. What female characters do I know who, 1) I would like if I knew them as real people without necessarily wanting to sleep with them, and 2) what female characters seem to me the most “realistic.” None of the ones on my CILFS list seem realistic, but there are one’s I’ve read about in fiction who fit both requirements above. Let’s see:

1. Dolores Claiborne, created by Stephen King. I liked Dolores and rooted for her throughout the book, but I never thought of her in a sexual way. I felt, as a male reader, that Dolores was probably a realistic woman.

2. Eleanor Arroway, created by Carl Sagan for Contact. I liked Ellie, as she was referred to throughout, and I can say she was a pretty realistic scientist. I didn’t think of her in a sexual way, however. I’m not clear that she’s a realistic woman. You women will have to tell me.

3. Deborah, created by James Sallis for the Lew Griffin mysteries, especially Ghost of a Flea. Deborah seems realistic to me. She loves Lew but also has her own interests, and although she is happy to share many things with Lew she clearly keeps her own center and is neither over or underwhelmed by Lew. I could be friends with Deborah but never anything more.

4. Clarice Starling, created by Thomas Harris. Clarice seems pretty realistic to me, although you have to remember that I’m a male. I liked her and rooted for her, and though there is probably some mild sexual attraction there she’s sure no Dejah Thoris.

5. Mary Breydon, created by Louis L’Amour for Cherokee Trail. Mary lost everything in the Civil War and came west to make a new life. But her husband is killed and she ends up managing a stage station with her young daughter. Mary was a practical woman but who still has some dreams. She was a good mother and was even beautiful. But I didn’t think of her in a fantasy way.

6. Ellie Sattler, created by Michael Crichton for Jurassic Park. I’m not sure how realistic Ellie Sattler was but I liked her and rooted for her and felt she had a lot going for her without her being particularly attractive to me. Interesting that there are two “Ellies” on my list.

The above six characters are from books, but I found myself struggling to find more. This probably reflects the fact that I haven’t read nearly as many books featuring strong female leads as male leads. Part of that is my own bias, I’m sure, part is due to the genres I typically read, and part may have to do with the fact that even female adventure writers often feature male protagonists. To complete my list, then, I’m going to movies below.

7. Ellen Ripley, portrayed by Sigourney Weaver in the Alien movies. (And another “Ellen/Ellie.) Ripley seemed most “realistic” to me in Aliens, but I liked her in Alien as well. By the third film she had lost some of her realism, at least to me. This selection bends my rules because I certainly found Ripley attractive in the first movie. However, it was more of a realistic attraction rather than a fantasy attraction.

8. Sarah Conner, from the first Terminator movie, played by Linda Hamilton. This also breaks my rule because I was very attracted to Sarah in the first movie. She seemed both vulnerable and very realistic in her reactions to the situation. In the second movie, Sarah was much more a kick-ass heroine. She seemed much less real but was still attractive to me, more in a fantasy way.

9. Annie, the character played by Kathy Bates in the movie, Misery. Crazy as she was, I really sort of liked the character. Of course, Kathy Bates makes any character come alive. Was she realistic as a woman? I’m not sure, but she was certainly convincing as a crazed fan.

10. Your Name Here!

1 comment:

Stewart Sternberg (half of L.P. Styles) said...

Scout is the greatest female narrator. She is the essence of childhood and common sense in "To Kill A Mockingbird". What about Sara from the Conrad Aiken series "The Trees". Stalwart pioneer woman who tolerates too much and expects to tolerate more.

And then there's Irene Adler..the only woman who ever meant anything to Mr. Holmes.