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Sunday, June 3, 2012

Kickass Chicks Wanted

I write funny, sexy romance novels that have a chick lit attitude. In my writing, I begin with an exploration of the female archetypes. Many writers do this whether they consciously analyze the archetypes or not as they create women characters.

These archetypes are usually defined as: Nurturer, Crusader, Librarian, Waif, Free Spirit, Spunky Kid, Survivor, and Boss.

You'll notice there's not a listing for Warrior. In my opinion, that's because a warrior lurks within each female archetype. Pop culture finally discovered that, and kickass heroines have taken over movies, television, and books.

Origins

The origin of the warrior woman in contemporary culture didn't start with Buffy in the late 1990's. Look backwards a bit. Edgar Lee Masters in Spoon River Anthology wrote about a woman who “hated with the hate of Jael when the white hot hands went seeking the nail.” Jael was a woman in the Bible who killed a man by hammering a nail into his head. Now that's a warrior woman.

Contemporary References

Let's leave Jael and Joan of Arc and many others in the past and move forward to Honey West, a woman who first appeared in the 1957 book This Girl for Hire by G. G. Fickling, a pseudonym used by Gloria and Forest Fickling who wrote many mysteries including 10 about the girl detective. In the 1960s, Aaron Spelling brought Honey West, starring Anne Francis, to television.

Spelling was inspired by the British series The Avengers, with cool, calm, and collected Emma Peel, a spy who wore haute couture, caught bad guys, and never broke a sweat. Diana Rigg was born to play Emma Peel who could handle anything as well as or better than a man.

Ripley

Then Sigourney Weaver made movie history in 1979 as the first woman action star in the original Alien, a movie that scared me witless. Weaver as the intrepid Ripley kicked alien butt and in the end blew it out the hatch into deep space. She reprised her role in 1966 and should have left it there because the other installments weakened the franchise and were more woman as victim than as warrior.

Buffy

Joss Whedon brought Buffy the Vampire Slayer to television in 1997. Sarah Michelle Geller made you believe that this petite blond high school slacker could more than hold her own with the bloodsuckers. Buffy really kickstarted the whole butt-kicking female trend. Until her stint as vampire slayer, popular opinion seemed to be that women warriors on television would alienate male viewers and readers and possibly a lot of the females too.

Actually. I think Buffy had as many male fans as female. Sure, maybe the men were looking at Buffy and Faith in terms of hot chicks, but I think those two made being tough, strong, and indomitable hot.

Cordelia

When Angel, a spinoff of Buffy, came along in 1999, the show costarred Charisma Carpenter as Cordelia, a chick who grew from self-absorbed to selfless with a lot of stages in between, most of them requiring her to fight demons and other assorted bad guys.

Let's just give it up for Joss Whedon who has a thing for warrior women. He absolutely knows how to create a strong woman character. He did this in Firefly, a short-lived series thanks to Fox TV, and in the 2005 movie Serenity in which all the actors from Firefly reprised their roles.

Women of Firefly

Notable as the captain's sidekick and right hand man was a woman – Zoe, a gorgeous warrior woman portrayed by Gina Torres. Firefly and Serenity also had Kaley, as portrayed by Jewel Staite, the vulnerable but horny female spaceship mechanic. For the exotic, there was Morena Baccarin as the companion Inara Serra, a woman who commanded men in a different way but who also knew how to fight. River Tam, the emotionally damaged teen rounded out the female cast. River was a killing machine trying to be sane and was played so well by Summer Glau.

Movies

In the movies we had Lara Croft in 2001 and 2003 as portrayed by Angelina Jolie, who also played Mrs. Smith to Brad Pitt’s Mr. Smith in 2005. Those two kick butt roles are possibly the most realistic – when compared to the assassin she played later in Wanted or Grendel’s mother in Beowulf.

Jennifer Garner also played a warrior, the comic book heroine Elektra, but that was after she'd made a name for herself as the tough as nails agent Sydney Bristow in Alias which ran from 2001to 2006.

Real Life Warrior Women

I like to write warrior women, and I do that with each book. You may have noticed that none of my heroines are vampire or demon slayers. In fact, they're not even close to those images. They are real life versions of warrior woman. That means that they are strong, assertive, and comfortable in their own skin. Sure, they may have problems, but they're dealing with them, and they have staying power. They don't give up. They're also unwilling to be anyone's doormat.

Post Script

Celebrate the warrior inside. Live strong. Be strong. Pass it on to your daughters, and teach your sons to value and respect that aspect of a woman's identity.

(Note: My contemporary romances are available at all major ebook sellers. Thank you for thinking of me the next time you shop for a book. I hope you'll visit me at my website and blog: http://www.JoanReeves.com and http://SlingWords.blogspot.com.)

14 comments:

  1. I never knew about the warrior in all of us. But oh, yes, I agree. Maybe not exactly Laura Croft, but we all do have that mama bear instinct and probably to some degree, a fighting spirit. Maybe even more than men. Thanks.

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  2. I think all my heroines are warriors, I call them career women strugling and succeeding in a male world, but they have a tender streak they hid deep down.

    I twitted and shared this post.

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  3. I LOVED Honey West as a child and wanted to BE her!!
    I write some spunky, warrior women myself--but Honey West was the BOMB!
    Stephanie (Honey West) Queen

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    1. LOL! Honey West was a blond with brains, attitude, and spunk.

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  4. I hope all the women characters I write are spunky warrior women. No one wants to read about a whiner. Good post, Joan.

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    1. Thanks, Caroline. I agree. There's nothing heroic about whining.

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  5. I think warrior women are more visible now than ever before - in books, television and the movies. And it's about time they took their place. Add a bit of humor into a story with a gal who's got attitude, and it's my kind of story!!! And...when I meet a real woman like that, she's a heck of a lot more interesting than the opposite.

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    1. Totally agree, Mimi! Actually, I think just about any woman who is a mother is a warrior woman. We have to be!

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  6. Good post. Remember Wonder Woman? Super Girl? The women who fought to be in the armed forces as real soldiers? The firefighter and police women? I see them as warriors.

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    1. Thanks, Mary. Yes, I do remember Wonder Woman. I kept waiting for Joss Whedon's Wonder Woman movie to come out, but I guess it just fell apart. As you point out, we don't need a fictional example when we have service women, cops, firefighters, etc. To quote an old Helen Reddy song: "I am woman. Hear me roar."

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