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January 18 2014

Can men write good heroines? Samantha Ellis of The Guardian points to Joss as an example of one who can.

Joss is included in the category with Shakespeare, Ibsen and Defoe. Not bad company.

This is an article where the author already knows the answer. Silly question, and selective answer. And I am one who looks into questions like these. But this was sort of simple, though nice on the Joss shout-out.
Reading this, I was reminded of this wonderful article that Jane Espenson wrote a little while ago. So this wasn't even a question for me.

But while I disagree with some of the writer's interpretations (don't get me started on Tess!), it's so fun to see Joss mentioned in between Ibsen and Hardy.
Glad that Joss received a shout out, but I'm amazed that she needed to refer to Buffy and Joss as if there aren't a whole host of strong heroines in the sci-fi genre. Xena, Dana Scully, Susan Ivonova, Cassandra Anderson, Ellen Ripley, the list goes on.

It'll be great though when we have just as many female writers as male writers working in film, TV and comics, presenting their interpretation of both male and female heroes.
SeanHarry Then the question will be "Can women write good heroes?"

Why is this even still a thing? Why is there this...mentality that "If you're not X, you can't write/understand X"? Gays can't write straight, straights can't write gay, blacks can't write white...knock it off. Seriously. It's the 21st century, people! Join it. Enjoy it. Stop...pigeonholing people. I'm not English, but I have a friend who is, and she told me I write Giles like I am. Meaning that I get his expressions and way of speaking correct; I don't just throw in a bunch of "bloody hells" and "bollocks." She also said I have a good ear for Faith, and I'm certainly not a street-tough, sass-mouthed Slayer.

If you're a good writer, regardless of gender, religion, sexual preference or whathaveyou, you'll be able to write a good character regardless of their gender, religion, sexual preference, etc, if you feel the character and hear what they're telling you.

In my opinion.
I agree with everything ShadowQuest just wrote here. While yes, it is kind of a silly question to be asking in this day and age, particularly since it answers itself at least a dozen times over, there are STILL very narrow-minded people who cause the question to still be relevant, in a way (what a run-on sentence that was).

I feel that if a Woman is upset by Joss or any other Man creating female main characters, it's a form of sexism. What I mean is, I've spoken with many Women who are up in arms over "another Man being praised for creating strong females. What about the Women who do that?" It's a valid question but which one is more impressive when done well?

I mean yes, there are a number of Women who create solid Women in fiction but I'm more impressed with a female author who can bring me insight into the male psyche. That's not to say it's okay to write strongly for one gender and let the other suffer. In great fiction, both genders need to be well represented. Otherwise, things feel really off-balanced and have the potential to be offensive to everyone (Twilight). Never mind my gender as a Man. As an WRITER, I'm especially disgusted whenever I see work that makes a mockery of both sexes (see: pretty much anything starring Katherine Heigl within the last 5 years. Or don't).

The bigger tragedy is that the issue goes beyond gender. What seems to be a hot button at the moment is whether someone who is White can/should write for non-White characters. People like Spike Lee and Armond White (both Black) had a huge problem with Quentin Tarantino (a White guy) making a film like Django Unchained. Personally, I feel that a good movie is a good movie is a good movie. It shouldn't matter what color the creator's skin is. Kathryn Bigelow has been making mostly male-friendly, American Action films for decades now and hold on to your hats, she's a White, Irish Woman! GASP! :)
Kathryn Bigelow has been making mostly male-friendly, American Action films for decades now and hold on to your hats, she's a White, Irish Woman! GASP! :)

She's about the only woman who has been given such an opportunity to do so. Hollywood is dominated by white males. It's extremely difficult for anyone else to get a look in. Their talent doesn't get seen or heard or read. I was reading this blog post about this issue the other day.
A good writer should be able to write for any character, no matter their gender, race, sexuality etc. And Joss is a great writer; actors, no matter what their gendre, love to say his dialogue, and audiences love to hear it.

Be it Buffy or Xander, Inara or Wash, Fred or Gunn, Adelle or Topher, Scott or Kitty, Joss paints amazing characters no matter what their gender.

But strong female characters are almost a trope in science fiction, going back to the likes of Uhura of Stark Trek, Servelan in Blakes 7 and Ripley in Alien, films and TV shows from over 40 years ago.

In the 90's there was an explosion of incredible female heroes in the genre on film, TV and comics. Dana Scully, Xena & Gabrielle, Ivonova & Dellen, Kira & Dax, Lt. Col Carter, and of course Buffy & Willow.

A good writer should be able to write good characters. Period.

For a great strong female heroine, check out Changeling, which was written by J. Michael Straczynski. Guess that Ivonova wasn't a fluke; that it's in his DNA to write believable female heroes.

For me the questions of male writers being able to write female characters is a non issue, anymore than female writers writing male characters.

The questions is why, when women make up 50% of the population, are their so few women writers in Hollywood? The situation isn't quite as bad as it is with directors, but it's bad. I could only find statics for 2005, when women made up only 27% of writers on TV in Hollywood. That's better than directors though; in 2013 women accounted for only 16% of directors working in Television.

And that's the area that Joss really deserves credit. He's never shown any gender bias in hiring writers; he just knows talent. Alongside the likes of David Greenwalt, Drew Goodward and Tim Minear, he's also brought us Marti Noxon, Maurissa Tancharoen and Jane Espensen. Indeed, 4 of the 8 staff writers on Dollhouse were female.

I look forward to the day when questions like "Can male writers write Heroines" and "Why aren't their more female writers in the industry" don't need to be considered.

[ edited by SeanHarry on 2014-01-19 12:18 ]
If feminism is the radical (and correct) notion that women are people, what is the outstanding issue? Can't men write people?
Glad that Joss received a shout out, but I'm amazed that she needed to refer to Buffy and Joss as if there aren't a whole host of strong heroines in the sci-fi genre. Xena, Dana Scully, Susan Ivonova, Cassandra Anderson, Ellen Ripley, the list goes on.

For what it's worth, the article is referring to a book primarily about heroines in novels, so I was happy just to see Joss in that company. He's the only living writer she mentions, so I don't think she's making a point with who she ignores.

Simon, thanks for that article. Now that we're talking about film and TV, I've rethought what I said above, about how people shouldn't need to ask these questions. Because there's a problem with saying good writing is good writing and that we shouldn't need to draw attention to gender and other factors, and that's because it comes dangerously close to ignoring the present lack of diversity.
I'm sure most people who hire writers today think they're being gender-blind, but that's the same as saying there are actually fewer good women writers. Because that's what gender-blind judgement has got us so far.
But the question was not about whether or not women are given opportunity equivalent to men. They are not, by any measure. The question was whether or not men can write strong women. They can.

[ edited by Dana5140 on 2014-01-19 21:31 ]
I saw Saving Mr. Banks recently, scripted by two women, and was struck by the dialogue of Walt Disney's personal assistant when he asks her what he's missing about P.L. Travers: "You think the female of the species has some kind of psychic insight when it comes to others of her kind? ... They don't." Which tells me anyone can write anything. What you need is imagination, motivation, and inspiration to make a story believable. The artistic zeitgeist is both sexes' domain.
Or, to go into written genre items, Eric FLint and SM Stirling have plenty of strong women in their books. (Unfortunately I know too little baout the classics to realy evaluate much of the article - I recognized all but one reference but I'm taking her word on the content.)

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