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Old 04-07-2012, 01:40 PM   #1
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The Five Most Pathetic Female Characters [Guardian Blog]

http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisf...ilm-characters

Okay, it's a discussion about film, but I'd thought it would be interesting to focus more on novels [especially as we have already gotten the obligatory Bella mention out of the way.]

So, who is your vote for most pathetic female character in a novel?

My vote is for Tess in Tess of the D'Urbevilles. She's passive and weak, with only one moment of action, and that leads to tragedy. Also, her sole function in the novel is the object of the male gaze. She's used by her parents to advance their status, and trampled over by Alec and Angel. She fails to take action until almost the end of the [long] book.

*I will also mention that I think the blogger seemed to miss the point that The Princess Bride is a parody, and that Buttercup is a parody of the female in fairytale.
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Old 04-07-2012, 02:08 PM   #2
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Literature is full of examples of useless females, and not all are written by male writers. Take whats-her-name in the Tenant of Wildfell Hall for example.

But if I have to cast my vote for just one, it'll be Madame Bonacieux of The Three Musketeers. She's passive, gullible and tramples innocent bystanders (like her husband) without remorse out of devotion to a completely spoiled and empty-headed bitch and a man with slighlty less honour than your average sewer rat. By the time Milady finally poisons her, you're going: 'That's right; put that miserable idiot out of her misery!' But then I also always cry when they kill Milady, so I may not be Dumas' target audience.

As for most pathetic male character, the award goes to Louis in Interview With A Vampire. Annoying, whiny, self-centered... A waste of time and space.
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Old 04-07-2012, 03:48 PM   #3
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Be nice if she decided to go back before the 80s to pick her examples. And I understand this is snark, but there's an appalling amount of Research Fail in that post. (The Childlike Empress, really? She sets the entire PLOT in motion, and she does "nothing?" Really?!)

As for picking examples from literature... Hm, this is kinda hard. I'm sure I've read many, mostly from the paranormal YA shelf, but I'm drawing a total blank right now.
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Old 04-07-2012, 04:52 PM   #4
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Reading over the article reminded me of something. All the heroines on the list are from movies made in the 80's or later, and it seems like the biggest complaint is that by this time, we should know that women can do things for themselves.

This past weekend, I watched Metropolis for the first time (the silent film, not the anime) and one of my first comments was how active a role Maria takes for a film of that era.

So, there you go, modern movies. If a heroine from a film made 85 years ago can take an active role in the plot, a leading lady in a current film certainly can.
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Old 04-07-2012, 06:25 PM   #5
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I'm going to go out on a limb here and nominate Emma Woodhouse from Jane Austen's Emma.
Let me say off the bat that I am an Austen fan, but Emma really annoys me.

She's an overconfident git who spends the entire novel making one mistake after another. That would be fine if at the end she learned something. But what happens at the end? She marries a Father Figure.
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Old 04-07-2012, 07:13 PM   #6
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I'm going to go out on a limb here and nominate Emma Woodhouse from Jane Austen's Emma.
Let me say off the bat that I am an Austen fan, but Emma really annoys me.

She's an overconfident git who spends the entire novel making one mistake after another. That would be fine if at the end she learned something. But what happens at the end? She marries a Father Figure.
But that makes Emma true-to-life for me. She speaks to me. Not the Father Figure bit, but the "overconfident git who spends the entire novel making one mistake after another" only-to-get-it-wrong-in-the-end part, oh yeah. My life in a nutshell.
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Old 04-07-2012, 07:54 PM   #7
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I'm going to go out on a limb here and nominate Emma Woodhouse from Jane Austen's Emma.
Let me say off the bat that I am an Austen fan, but Emma really annoys me.

She's an overconfident git who spends the entire novel making one mistake after another. That would be fine if at the end she learned something. But what happens at the end? She marries a Father Figure.
I came very close to nominating Fanny from Mansfield Park, but you're right, Emma is pretty annoying too. I'm a huge Austen-fan, except for those two novels. They're extremely well-crafted of course - there's just not a single person in them I like very much.
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Old 04-07-2012, 08:26 PM   #8
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Surely Fanny is worse than Emma. At least Emma does things, even if she gets them wrong. But yeah, Mr Knightley--ugh!
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Old 04-07-2012, 08:37 PM   #9
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I'm going to go out on a limb here and nominate Emma Woodhouse from Jane Austen's Emma.
Let me say off the bat that I am an Austen fan, but Emma really annoys me.

She's an overconfident git who spends the entire novel making one mistake after another. That would be fine if at the end she learned something. But what happens at the end? She marries a Father Figure.
But Emma isn't pathetic. She's overconfident and annoying. I want to borrow a baseball bat off of Catherine Morland and take it to Emma.

Fanny, now, she's pathetic, an utterly wet, wrung-out dishcloth of a passive, useless heroine.

I, too, love Jane Austen's writing. Just not those two characters.
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Old 04-07-2012, 09:14 PM   #10
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Literature is full of examples of useless females, and not all are written by male writers. Take whats-her-name in the Tenant of Wildfell Hall for example.

But if I have to cast my vote for just one, it'll be Madame Bonacieux of The Three Musketeers. She's passive, gullible and tramples innocent bystanders (like her husband) without remorse out of devotion to a completely spoiled and empty-headed bitch and a man with slighlty less honour than your average sewer rat. By the time Milady finally poisons her, you're going: 'That's right; put that miserable idiot out of her misery!' But then I also always cry when they kill Milady, so I may not be Dumas' target audience.

As for most pathetic male character, the award goes to Louis in Interview With A Vampire. Annoying, whiny, self-centered... A waste of time and space.
"Louis, Louis. Still whining after all these years."

The above is what makes Louis bearable: namely, Lestat.
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Old 04-07-2012, 09:19 PM   #11
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So, a question: is a female character pathetic because she makes bad choices, or because she doesn't make many choices at all and is acted upon by others?
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Old 04-07-2012, 09:24 PM   #12
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IMO, she's pathetic if she allows others to make all her choices for her and all she can do is curl up and say, "woe is me!" and "I need xxxx to be alive!"

Dare I say it? Bella, from the series most of us love to poke and deride.....?



P.S., I'm sure I had more to say about what makes a female character pathetic, but my excuse is I'm tired, it's late and I'm having trouble with coherency in any recognisable language....
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Old 04-07-2012, 09:26 PM   #13
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I've got to agree with Tess in the OP. That book infuriated me. I was most frustrated when she actually ended up together with her rapist for awhile. Yeah, she killed him in the end, but even that seemed more to make the other guy like her than because she wanted to do it.

I remember having a very mind-boggling conversation in my lit class over that book where the rest of the class preferred Alec to Angel and wanted them together, and I was the only person saying, "Dude...he raped her. Did we forget that?" I guess everyone else was all for forgive and forget or something. Very bizarre, and also probably the first time I realized my opinion on literature was pretty different from most people's.
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Old 04-07-2012, 09:31 PM   #14
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Originally Posted by gothicangel;7170774[SIZE=2
My vote is for Tess in Tess of the D'Urbevilles.[/SIZE]

Agreed. Had to study this book for school and wow... I fell asleep reading it and hating every minute of it. Tess was... shall we say insufferable. I wished the guys would kill her, or she would suicide, just for something interesting for her to do.
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Old 04-07-2012, 09:36 PM   #15
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Old 04-07-2012, 09:42 PM   #16
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Laura Fairlie in The Woman in White. So mind-numbingly passive. [SPOILERS!]The way she lets herself get cheated out of her own inheritage is head-meets-desk-worthy. She actually had the chance to protect her interests in the wedding contract and blew it so spectacularly. She is absolutely useless in remembering anything at all about her abduction which could actually restore her fortune. And even afterwards, she's still like a child that needs to be taken care of.

Her half-sister Marian manages to act and gain some control over her own destiny, so what can't miss Fairlie do the same?

I really wanted to like that book...

Hm, it's a lot harder to find pathetic male characters, come to think of it. Clearly I haven't read enough of that sort of book. I'd be interested to read other people's nominations for that.
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Old 04-07-2012, 11:38 PM   #17
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I actually think it's unfair for the article to ding Catherine Hardwicke for Twilight. In the source material, Bella is really passive, yet Hardwicke made the character (to my mind) quietly assertive and rather interesting.

And then they booted her off making the sequels, so don't blame what happens in the later movies on Hardwicke.

Red Riding Hood was pretty insipid, though.
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Old 04-07-2012, 11:39 PM   #18
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Yeah, that awful Tess. She should have just stuck her mother and siblings in the workhouse and driven off into the sunset on her Yamaha.
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Old 04-08-2012, 12:00 AM   #19
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Oh, if you want to complain about a female character who marries her rapist:Friday in Robert Heinlein's novel of the same name.

A wall-banging book in so many ways, and also proof that "Strong female character" and "Strong female character" are not the same thing.
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Old 04-08-2012, 12:08 AM   #20
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That book was so mendacious I wanted to beat the author's head in with it!
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Old 04-08-2012, 02:04 AM   #21
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Hm, it's a lot harder to find pathetic male characters, come to think of it. Clearly I haven't read enough of that sort of book. I'd be interested to read other people's nominations for that.
Okay, not a book, but Luke Skywalker. I mean, if you had to chose between Luke or Han Solo. It's a no-brainer.

(By the same token, you could also say Eragon.)

Can't post without a mention of Simon Scarrow's Roman MC's Macro and Cato. Legionaries, really? My money's on the Briticulius every time.

*Oh, and Robert Fabbri's Vespasian. Never thought I would encounter a Roman Gary Stu.
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Old 04-08-2012, 02:04 AM   #22
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Lol, I wouldn't choose Han or Luke. No thank you!
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Old 04-08-2012, 02:31 AM   #23
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My vote is on Chewbacca.
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Old 04-08-2012, 02:46 AM   #24
gothicangel
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Buffysquirrel View Post
Lol, I wouldn't choose Han or Luke. No thank you!
You know, I would have forgiven Lucas if he had made Luke grow a set in the last film. I would have forgotten the numerous times he had to be saved through three films. But no. Not only did Daddy save him, kill the evil overlord, he even saved the universe.

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Old 04-08-2012, 03:09 AM   #25
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Originally Posted by Flicka View Post
Literature is full of examples of useless females, and not all are written by male writers. Take whats-her-name in the Tenant of Wildfell Hall for example.

But if I have to cast my vote for just one, it'll be Madame Bonacieux of The Three Musketeers. She's passive, gullible and tramples innocent bystanders (like her husband) without remorse out of devotion to a completely spoiled and empty-headed bitch and a man with slighlty less honour than your average sewer rat. By the time Milady finally poisons her, you're going: 'That's right; put that miserable idiot out of her misery!' But then I also always cry when they kill Milady, so I may not be Dumas' target audience.

As for most pathetic male character, the award goes to Louis in Interview With A Vampire. Annoying, whiny, self-centered... A waste of time and space.
There's a reason Lestat featured in all the big sequels and Louis didn't. If even the author finds the guy dull...

Quote:
Originally Posted by Katrina S. Forest View Post
Reading over the article reminded me of something. All the heroines on the list are from movies made in the 80's or later, and it seems like the biggest complaint is that by this time, we should know that women can do things for themselves.

This past weekend, I watched Metropolis for the first time (the silent film, not the anime) and one of my first comments was how active a role Maria takes for a film of that era.

So, there you go, modern movies. If a heroine from a film made 85 years ago can take an active role in the plot, a leading lady in a current film certainly can.
I was always struck by the relatively strong and active women, often in leadership roles, who featured in 1950s sci fi movies. I often think it was part of a progressive vision of the future, which depresses me enormously when I look at where we are in the 21st century. But I think it was also an echo of the active role women played during WW2, which I think gets overlooked nowadays when we think of past decades as being so benighted.

My personal favorite of these strong women of the past is the Girl Scientist in "Them!" She's Dr. Daughter to Professor Little Old Man, and they're both crawlyologists. She is treated with appropriate professional courtesy by her peers, including her dad. Being younger, she is the active expert who goes into danger with the Action Dudes. I love how she takes charge of the scientific side of things while the FBI and Army guys are just mooning about with the hots for her. My favorite scene is where they've found a giant ant nest in the desert, and she marches right up to it, giving orders about what to do, etc. When they're done, she announces they, including her, have to go into the nest to make sure everything is dead, and the men are all like, "You ain't going nowhere, it's too dangerous for girls." Her reaction was, "I don't have time to give you a crash course on insect pathology," and she starts rappelling down, and the boys are all like, "Oh. Okay."

Any time a woman says "Look, I don't have time for this crap," that's a strong female character talking. A female character who never doesn't have time for crap strikes me as pathetic.
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