Just an FYI- for this post, I’m mostly talking about YA Fantasy. That’s the main genre I read, and it’s the one I think most of my non-reader friends could really get into.
The whole idea for this post came about a loooong time ago, when my little brother and I went to the movies, and (no exaggeration) every preview we saw except for one was a YA novel being turned into a film. After about the fourth one, I head my brother kind of mutter under his breath “Yay, another movie about a girl saving the world.”
And, at first, I wanted to fight him, because, hey, I did my time. I have read book after book, “classic” after “classic,” and seen movie after movie where I had to try to identify with a male protagonist and his male mentor and his male villain and his only-there-for-eye-candy love interest.
At first, I was angry. I wanted to say, “Yeah, another girl-saves-the-world movie. And it’s about damn time!” But then it got me thinking.
Understand that my brother is a few years younger than me, and my dad was a huge nerd. So we grew up on Star Wars, Star Trek, and Narnia; all of these were series where, for the most part, men and women had equal parts in saving the world. I mean, the Star Trek of our youth was Voyager, which had the first female captain, and a borg-turned-beautiful woman who saved everyone’s lives multiple times.
But, because I’m an avid reader, I’ve been exposed to a lot more gender injustice than he has. I’ve read so many novels that were a huge disservice to women. I went through the process of seeing only books that were pretty clearly sexist, to seeing this whole YA genre explode and give women the credibility they deserve.
But he hasn’t had that same experience. He grew up seeing both genders portrayed fairly equally (though definitely not perfectly). So his comment got me thinking, has the YA gender pendulum just swung in the other direction?
Because, let me tell you, I’ve seen my fair share of unrealistic expectations reflected in male characters. All these hot, funny, thoughtful, badass, well-read, etc. etc. male characters who are just as unrealistic as a sexy G. I. Jane. Or worse, male characters who were pushed to the side so that the incredible “not-like-other-girls” girl can take center stage.
After thinking it over for a while, I took a look at my bookshelf and asked myself, “Which of these books would I actually recommend to my brother?” If I wanted to turn my non-reader brother in an guy who couldn’t devour books fast enough, which books would I hand him?
And I could only come up with two. Two books with what I considered well-written male characters, and they have both male and female protagonists. (For the record, the two were An Ember in the Ashes and Six of Crows.) It’s not that I think he would hate a series like Throne of Glass or The Wrath and the Dawn, he’d probably enjoy them. It’s just that these are very female-centered books. And when you’re trying to get someone who’s never really been much of a reader to enjoy books a bit more, they really have to connect with the character they’re reading about. Which can be hard if it’s an author of the opposite gender writing about a character of the opposite gender.
So all of this is simply to ask: Has gender representation in YA become more fair? Or do we still have some work to do for our literary fellas?
Thanks for reading!
What do you think about the gender atmosphere in YA? Do you think there is fair and equal representation? Do you think we still have some work to do? What are some books or series you think have incredible representation? Let me know in the comments below!