Ranting and Rambling: I need romance heroines to be more like Buffy Summers

08/02/2013 ranting and rambling 9

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I am a huge fan of Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Buffy Summers kicked major ass. She’s a heroine who saved her friends and the world on a weekly basis for 7 seasons. Even when she was weak, physically and emotionally, she was still strong. One of my all time favorite episodes is “The Body” where *spoiler alert* Buffy comes home and finds her mom dead on the couch. That episode makes me cry every time. But it’s perfect because it showcases how this powerful slayer can kill demons, vamps and save the world but she couldn’t save her mom from a brain aneurysm.

I’ve noticed lately that I’ve been heroine bashing (in my mind, while reading). When I read a romance, I have such high standards for the heroine. Why is that? Is it because I expect women not to be weak, whiny and stupid? Pretty much. I can’t stand whiny women in real life so why would I want them in my contemporary romances? I think my bashing is due to the numerous romances that feature 20-something heroines. I’ve already touched on the subject in a previous post where I can’t relate to them and don’t want to read about them. Period. But now they’re everywhere! This doesn’t just pertain to the young’ns. Stupidity happens at any age.

Back to Buffy for a moment. (This is a ranty and rambling post so I’m gonna be all over the place.)  At the age of 16 she was kicking ass and taking names while trying to live a normal teenage life. When she whined, she whined about not being able to go to college because the world depended on her, or possibly missing prom because some nutbag was about to unleash hellhounds on the school. One of my favorite lines when Buffy’s death was prophesized is: “But I’m only 16. I don’t want to die.”  Ugh! That vulnerability underneath all that strength. Love it. What’s my point? My point is — I blame Joss Whedon. He’s the reason why I have zero tolerance for whiny, weak women. In TV and movies he sets such a high standard for what strong female characters should be that I now expect it to be reflected in what I read. Damn you Joss!

Joss Whedon writes great female characters. This is why I worship him. Plus he’s pretty much a genius.

You can be vulnerable without being whiny about it.

Where are the strong female characters in romance? Romance seems to be extreme in it’s portrayal of women. The heroine is either whiny and pathetic or strong, independent and bitchy. Can we not have the bitchy? Or so independent that it grates on your nerves. There’s no middle ground. Where’s the middle ground?? Why are we still accepting the stereotype of women being fragile and needing a man to rescue them? It’s 2013. Women can rescue themselves AND get the guy. I’m looking at you Tyler Perry.

Is having a strong female lead  so unappetizing to people? We are not the weaker sex. We give birth to human beings.

In the contemporary romance world, there aren’t any kick-ass heroines. Well, I guess they can be kick-ass but in a different way. If you want to read about a kick-ass heroine, you pretty much have to read Urban Fantasy and some PNR. I like some UF but not all. I need romance in my story. I need someone to break me out of this. I’m sure I’m missing out on some awesome Urban Fantasy books. But I’m sure I can overcome the lack of romance if the heroine is pretty bad ass.

UF writers can write a strong heroine but still let her have weaknesses. Contemporary Romance authors write strong heroines and she tends to be a bitch and unlikable. Where’s the disconnect? Strong ≠Bitch. Weak and Whiny ≠Feminine.

I’ve noticed that the moment the heroine shows a hint of what I perceive as weakness, I check out. I’m immediately in “girl get a spine” mode. Why? Because I know it’s all surface level shit. I need deep-seated hurt where it almost destroys the heroine. As long as there’s no whiny back-story about how her boyfriend cheated on her and she can’t trust men…blah, blah, blah..or the guys she’s dated in the past don’t do it for her…poor me…wah, wah, wah. Move on.

I’m at the point where if the heroine’s back-story involves being dumped or jilted, my immediate thought is “who cares?!” I laugh as I type this but it’s how I feel. I hate a complainer. I’m tired of the “past boyfriend did me wrong. I hate all men” back-story. Who hasn’t been dumped or jilted or had a terrible boyfriend? People break up! Shit happens. Give me something new!

I forget where I was going with this….

I guess my point is if a man can write a strong, well-rounded female characters then why can’t we have that in romances which are written by women? If I was a writer, I would write a heroine that was a combination of my mom (cause she is hilarious), Buffy, Wonder Woman and Olivia Pope. Beautifully flawed, strong women with a hint of sass, nice boobs and a golden lasso but won’t hesitate to get up in your face if the situation calls for it. It’s handled. <—Scandal reference. ;-)

I guess contemporary romance isn’t meant to be that deep. It’s formulaic and a lot of people, including myself, read it because we know what we’re getting. But as I get older, I’m starting to notice that the formula isn’t working for me anymore. I love the HEA but I just wish authors would take a different road to get there.

I need a hint of darkness in my romance. Rainbows and unicorns ain’t doing it for me anymore. I’ve noticed lately that the romance stories that stick with me and that I like the most have dark undertones.

Maybe using Buffy the Vampire Slayer as my model for romance heroines wasn’t the right way to go but there’s a reason why, when I was thinking of this post and the title, Buffy was the first character that came to mind. The show was campy, emotional, fun and dark. It’s the dark side of Buffy that I liked the most. The ability to be vulnerable when everyone expects you to be strong is what made me love that character so much.

What’s my point? Whiny is bad. Strong (but not bitchy) is good. Variety is the spice of life. Change the formula. Joss Whedon needs to start writing romance novels.

Ha!

If you haven’t watched BtVS, I suggest you do so immediately. I think all of the seasons are available on Netflix. And if you need help deciding whether or not to watch it, check out this list of the 10 Reason Why Buffy Kicks Ass. I love the final line in this list: “Instead of the blond bimbo, we have a beautiful, yet flawed, heroine who constantly saves the day — and isn’t just arm candy for the men in her life.”

I can’t believe the show has been off the air for 10 years. *pours some liquor out for the Scooby Gang*

So did this post make any sense? How do you feel about heroines in romance novels? Am I expecting too much? Share your thoughts!

 

p.s. – I can’t believe how long this post turned out. I didn’t even touch on Buffy’s relationships with men. I’ll save that for another post, another time.

 

© 2013, Marquetta. All rights reserved.

9 Responses to “Ranting and Rambling: I need romance heroines to be more like Buffy Summers”

  1. Kristen

    Whiny heroines just make me want to scream. There have been very few books I’ve read where the heroine deserves to be called the heroine. Their is no balance in character traits.

    The In Death series by J.D. Robb(Nora Roberts) is without a doubt the best example of true bad ass I have ever read about. There are around 40 books in the series so far, but the span of time within the series is only about three years. I guess it is consider UF because the first book is set in 2058. What I also like is she releases a book twice a year, so you’re not waiting for the next one.

    Nora Roberts does an amazing job in character development with Eve and Rourke. The supporting characters are just as good as the H/h.

  2. Leslie H.

    “I can’t stand whiny women in real life so why would I want them in my contemporary romances?” – well said! I 100% agree; nothing angers me more than a dim-witted, pathetic, whiny leading female in a romance novel! I just read a fantastic book entitled, “Come Fly with Me” by author Judith Whitmore (http://www.judithwhitmore.com/books/come-fly-with-me/). The main character Kate is a strong, fierce, intelligent woman who is stuck in a loveless, one-sided marriage. She throws herself into her work at an organization for at risk teens and flying! Kate is a talented aerobatic pilot. I really found myself rooting for her throughout. Kate’s flight instructor, Rick, ends up being the man she falls for and the couple have to face an array of obstacles and twists & turns. BUT another reason why I love strong, confident Kate is that she is the hero at the end of the book! She does the rescuing(and a very daring rescue at that!) I won’t give anything away but it’s a must read for sure!

  3. Colette @ A Buckeye Girl Reads

    I love this post!! It’s why I don’t read a lot of contemporary romance. I’m a shallow reader. I don’t want to hear about their pasts. I want fun, flirty romances where the h/h aren’t fighting or apart until the last 50 pages.

    Strong heroines are why I also gravitated to UF~and you will love Kate Daniels. Book one is a bit slow-I actually think book 2 does a better job w/the world building…and by book four you’ll love Curran!!! :)

    • Marquetta

      I’ve been reading Contemporary Romance for 25 years and I’m not liking the direction it’s headed. Now that New Adult is the “It” genre, regular ADULT romances are sneaking in New Adult characteristics. Trying to find a contemporary romance where the heroine is at least is futile! The heroines are getting younger and younger and the heroes are getting older! I don’t want to read about a 23 year old who’s hooking it up with a 37 year old guy. Just no.

      I’ve decided I’m going to start reading more UF. I started the Kate Daniels series. Book 1 is muy slow. I’m almost done with book 2 and I am in love with Curran. I can’t wait to get to book 4!!

  4. Jaimee

    I can’t stand whiny women in real life so why would I want them in my contemporary romances?
    THIS! #FTW. This is why I always tried to write strong women–whether I succeeded or not, at least I tried. I suppose this is why I read UF, suspense and believe it or not, YA (tho mostly dystopian fiction).

    • Marquetta

      I’ve stayed away from UF because I need romance in my life. But I’m going to give UF a try. I just don’t like the direction romance is headed.

      I’m on book 2 of the Kate Daniels series and I’m loving it so far (despite book 1 being kinda boring).

  5. twimom227

    *high fives* I LOVE Buffy for all the reasons you’ve listed. But I am a PNR, UF kind of girl, so I see a lot of similar female heroines.

    I think you’ve hit the nail on the head – I read for pleasure and to escape real life… I don’t want to read about women who I don’t like (unless they are the bad guy!). I need to get behind a heroine to enjoy her. A while ago, I read a UF where the heroine had no confidence and didn’t believe in herself. I couldn’t go there – How am I supposed to get behind her if she can’t get behind herself.

    I am trying to think through the handful of non-PNR/UF books I’ve read and not sure about those women – it’s tough. Good luck!

    • Marquetta

      Buffy is THE BEST!!!

      I’m just tired of whiny, pathetic heroines. They are not sympathetic! I get so annoyed. Like you, I read to escape and I don’t want to read about women who I’d bitch slap(j/k) in real life. LOL!

      I’ve decided I need to read more UF. I’m going to start with the Kate Daniels series since everyone tells me it’s super fantastic!

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