At the end of the month THIS IS A SPECIAL DOUBLE MUSING MONTH! I’ll post a book-related meme that I think brings up an interesting discussion about books. Feel free to join in by making a comment below or linking back!
(Meme from: thatschurch.com)
(I’ll get to why I used this particular meme later in the post, but I’ll just say it has something to do with reviewers who use the TSTL [too stupid to live] acronym in their reviews to describe heroines).
It occurred to me one day when I was writing a review for a book that I think I am more critical of female characters than male characters and I got to thinking why. I came up with two theories…
1) I mostly read books that are told from a female perspective
This is mostly because I lean more towards romance novels when I read. In society, romantic notions tend to be cast as female tendencies so most romances are told by females. Now, that isn’t always the case. There is a growing trend in New Adult novels, as well as other genres, to include both male and female POV; or at the very least have an alternate POV sequel or short stories that provide the male POV.
Regardless, if that female character is considered the main lead, and most of the story is told from her perspective, you have more of a reaction to her character than a side character who is only in a few scenes. So when you review the book you also review her as a character and explain what you liked and/or didn’t like about her. Or at least, that is what I do.
I also think that when you read too much of one thing, you get tired of the subsequent stories with similar aspects. So if I’ve read about two heroines who find have the same characteristics, the third one is going to be compared to the previous two.
2) Because I am a female, I am more critical of female characters & their actions
When I read a book, I like to think about what I would do or react if I was in the position of the characters. So when a character does something that I think is not-so intelligent, I get more critical of them or I start to dislike them.
I ask myself “why on earth would you choose that?” and reply “I would have done ____ instead”.
And this is especially true for female characters. I’m not sure if you all do this, but when I read, I tend to picture myself in the role of the lead heroine. It’s just how I read. So when I am reading, I really picture myself in her shoes. And if she does something I think is idiotic I get really upset and judge her harshly for it.
The thing that struck me the most
when I was writing the series review that inspired this post was that I wasn’t as critical of the male lead for making similar idiotic decisions. Then that got me thinking that even in books where there is dual POV, I am always harder on the female than I am the male!
And I really think it comes down to the idea that as a girl, I think I know how I would react to the situation the heroine finds herself in and I judge her for when she doesn’t react the same way as me–who I consider to be a rational, logical person.
Which brings me to the reason I used the meme I did.
I’m not sure how many of you have seen the acronym TSTL–Too Stupid To Live–in other book reviews but I have. I personally don’t use it in my reviews (I think it is rude) though I can understand the appeal to a certain extent.
Regardless, why I bring it up is because I think that the frustration a “TSTL” causes is the same that I get when I read about a heroine I greatly disagree with. I am not above calling heroines (or heroes for that matter) stupid or idiotic when I do a review if they make some bad decisions for silly reasons. Plotlines are a huge part of a story, but what makes or breaks a story is how those characters react to those plotlines. And if you are a heroine who makes what I consider to be the wrong choice with respect to the plot, be prepared to feel the full wrath of my scathing review!
The point I’m trying to make is that I am more quick to say that a heroine is “dumb” more so than a male hero because, as a female, I know what decision I would make and I have a hard time grasping why another female doesn’t make the same decision. Which in turn makes me frustrated with the novel and usually results in me giving it a lower rating.
So, do you think you are more critical of characters from your own gender? Or do you think the opposite is true?
Is it because you share the same gender or is it because you’ve read too many books with similar leads?
Great post Lauren! I think I have the same inclination to judge female characters harshly as well than the males but I think it mostly depends on the situation for me.
You’re right that it does depend on the situation. I recently read a novel where it was told solely from the male’s POV and I definitely formed some judgments about him more so than the female lead because of what the plot line was.
Interesting topic! I think I’m pretty fair between the genders when declaring their stupidity. But I think it is way easier to judge, and thus judge more harshly, a character when we are getting their POV because we get to hear their thought process for behaving as such. This mostly applies to YA or chick lit for me because it’s often told in the female’s first person POV so even if the guy is being ridiculous, I don’t get to see inside his head to tell him where his thought process is going wrong. If that makes sense.
I completely agree with who you get for your POV influences your opinion. Seeing the thought process a character goes through can be very eye opening. I know a few times I’ve had to reread lines to make sure that, yup, I’m reading that thought correctly!
I am definitely harsher on main characters of my own gender, for the second reason I think. I like to be able to find myself in the characters and if they make a decision where I know it’s stupid and would have chosen differently, I just can’t empathise or understand them.
I’m definitely feeling that right now with the book I am currently reading! And because I feel so disconnected to the character it just makes that disconnect much bigger than it should be.
Such a great and interesting post to read, Lauren, I loved it! And I think I feel the same way as you do: I tend to judge more female characters, and I find lots of comparisons to other characters more easily, because I almost always read books with female as the MC.But I find myself criticizing male characters too, but that’s the case even if they’re not the lead: I don’t understand them fully, so I am confused and bothered by them. It’s really easier to judge and not like a character when you fully know and understand him, though, so when he’s / she’s the main character. 🙂
I don’t know if I made any sense, haha, great post! 😀
No worries, it totally made sense! 🙂
While I definitely agree with your points (nothing worse than someone doing something completely out of character), sometimes I think it IS easier to judge someone when you don’t understand them. Maybe you aren’t as harsh and you excuse it as “well I really don’t know them all that well” but they still get an eye-roll from me when they do something silly–even if they are a secondary character 😛 I think you just write them off and don’t give them a second thought because you aren’t subjected to their reflections on it for the rest of the novel like you would be if they were the POV.
You’re absolutely right! 😀
I voted and so far I’m the only one who said no! MY BAD. XD heeh, but actually, this is such a great discussion topic and really made me stop and think. I don’t feel like gender is a huge issue for me. Like I don’t find myself particularly feeling critical of girls vs boys. If I AM being uber critical it’s more likely to be of guys because I hate how (especially in contemporaries) the guys POVs can be so crude and shallow and sexist. -_-
BUT SERIOUSLY. I NEED TO GO AWAY AND THINK ABOUT THIS. Awesome discussion!!
I know what you mean about males in contemporaries–especially “alphas”. I’m a pretty independent woman so their constant need to “protect” and “claim” irks me to no end. And then I’m even more irked when the girl–who was SO independent at the start–becomes a dependent fool who can’t do anything without him…then it goes back to being tough on my own gender.
But I agree, for the most part I don’t really find myself separating and judging characters specifically for their gender. I think it is more of a subconscious thought process that happens when I read.