As a fan of quite a number of animes, games and comic book titles, I have come across a number of names who have worked behind the scenes to spawn an amazing series or adaptation. However, most of these said names mainly consist of males. In all honesty, I have no qualms with the gender and other specifics of any creator; all is well as long as they make a good series.
Once in a while, I do come across some female creators and I feel that they sometimes bring about a different perspective on how women are represented, and can portray them better than male creators.
This then begs the question; what is wrong with the some of the current representations of women?
Over sexualisation, Objectification And Underdevelopment
It goes without saying that female characters nowadays are getting overly sexualised as a ploy to garner more viewership but what can I say? I too, do love my fair share of sexy ladies.
However, an issue arises when women become delegated to simply being eye-candy. It becomes quite a nuisance when I come across a series and I see some female characters just created for the sake of fan service and nothing more. It is acceptable to have sexy female characters but it is sometimes frustrating to see them created just for the sake of their aesthetic appeal with little to nothing else to offer as a character.
Another aspect I dislike about female representation is when they only get relegated to a love interest role. Some of you may know this as the ‘woman in the refrigerator’ phenomenon; coined because Kyle Rayner, another Green Lantern, had his then love interest, who was terribly underdeveloped, murdered and stuffed into his refrigerator. It’s also seen in older Hollywood films when actresses were mainly given supporting eye candy roles to be romanced or saved by a male and then having them hardly contribute to the story or even have any character development at all.
You may now be asking, “What’s so severe about that? I mean it doesn’t really do any real harm right?” Contrary to that belief, it actually does do quite a bit of harm to women.
Subconsciously, this sort of media propagates the idea that women are meant to be ogled at and valued mainly for their outer beauty. It implants the false ideal that women should strive to be attractive to garner the attention of men and that the amount of attention they get is equated with their worth as a human being.
This may sound like an overly exaggerated scenario but in reality, some of what I have described has already been set in motion. You see women clamouring to be beautiful for social approval to the point where they compromise their health with plastic surgeries and eating disorders. You see men sexually harassing women even when told that it makes them uncomfortable.
Of course not all women go to extreme lengths for approval and not all men are such sexual deviants but the point is that some of what I described is already occurring in real life and it is substantially due to the type of media the populace consumes that implants these societal ideals into their psyche.
Let us now go through how female creators provide some solutions in terms of female representation to this ailment:
Realism in Body Types
Few series have tackled the issue of body types better than Rebecca Sugar’s Steven Universe. Rebecca Sugar is renowned for her work on Adventure Time and is also the creator of the aforementioned series.
Quite often, we are shown either extremely model-like proportions and physiques or terribly voluptous women in a number of series, spanning from anime to comic book titles and even some games.
While the Crystal Gems and other “female” characters are not exactly human or even female to begin with, the fact still remains that they resemble female humans from their voices to the faces and even down to their body types.
What Rebecca Sugar does not shy away from is that she aims to represent as many female body types as possible with the gems she creates. From the shorter and more rotund Amethyst, to the tall, bottom-heavy yet curvaceous Garnet, to the willowy Pearl. She shows a huge variety of women’s physiques from their heights, to their fat and muscle distribution as well. Hardly have I ever seen such a wide array of female body types in a series as best represented by Steven Universe.
It goes without saying that female empowerment is best represented through Wonder Woman. However, since Wonder Woman was created by male creators, we shall instead be focusing on her anime counterpart; Sailor Moon.
Sailor Moon was created by Naoko Takeuchi. And Sailor Moon, with her outer and inner senshis, have made the childhoods of many girls in both East and West societies magical. Unlike Wonder Woman and the DC Universe, the main heroes of Sailor Moon’s universe are in fact heroines and the prominent male characters who help these ladies on their conquests are Tuxedo Mask and Artemis.
This disproportion of female heroines turns the tables on the common dynamics that stipulates that males have to make up the majority of the main characters and that they are usually better developed and more prominent than most of their female counterparts.
The series also trumps the idea that in order to be admired and respected, one has to embody traditional masculine traits such as being intimidating and assertive. Sailor Moon instead provides a more feminine spin on this idea with its huge array of pink and gold accessories, Sailor Scout outfits and the glitter and glam that comes with their transformation sequences. These women seem hardly strong in the traditional sense but rather embody some traditionally masculine traits such as courage and independence, thus giving a very feminine perspective to what strength consists of; imbuing a sense of empowerment to its female audiences in its own special, feminine way.
Fully Fleshed Out Characters
While some female creators do stick to the common character dynamics of focusing on a male protagonist, there are a number who have done a wonderful job on character development for their female characters as well. An exemplary example is that of J.K. Rowling’s Hermione Granger and Molly Weasley.
With Hermione, Rowling showed us a well-developed female lead who initially came off as an arrogant know-it-all but she showed moments of vulnerability such as when the troll cornered her in the bathroom, when she felt terribly upset at Ron for ruining her date with Viktor and when he was going out with Lavender. In the end we saw her grow up from a bratty teacher’s pet into a well-refined lady and high achieving Minister of Magic through the use of her wits and talents.
Whilst we saw Hermione blossom from a pre-teen to a young adult, Molly Weasley represents the everyday mother and housewife who wants the best for her family. She experienced the ups and downs as a mother from the frustrations she faced when ensuring that her children did not get into trouble as well as being proud of their achievements. However, we also saw how much of a fighter she was in the Battle of Hogwarts when she lashed out at Bellatrix in order to keep her family safe and sound. We also experienced the sorrow she felt when she found Fred murdered.
With these female characters Rowling created, we get a more wholistic and realistic portrait of what women are and can be as people. These women are not two-dimensional characters who exist merely to pay homage to the men in their universe, but rather they are characters who have experienced a slew of emotions and conflicts, dealing with them in their own unique way.
Overall, women creators tend to bring something unique to the plate and are able to paint a more accurate representation of women in various sorts of media through visuals or texts on a page or on the screen.
It is undeniable that there are other amazing female characters created by or in collaboration with males such as the aforementioned Wonder Woman, Elizabeth from Bioshock and Nico Robin from One Piece. However, given that women creators have struggled with the problems that the everyday woman face first-hand, they may be better able to emote and represent their gender than most males do. This more realistic portrayal of women to the masses then empowers them and can hopefully reduce the amount of struggles women face with regards to their unattainable beauty standards and everyday treatment.