A genre that has gained immense popularity in the recent past is the genre of dystopian fiction. Although it is not actually a new genre- earlier examples being George Orwell’s 1984- the genre of dystopian fiction with a strong woman protagonist have become increasingly popular.
However, there are some stereotypes about these dystopian heroines that seem to come with a checklist, and are ticked off in every dystopian young adult (YA) novel!
Firstly, the girl has to have a very low opinion of how she looks, or be a total tomboy who’s completely unaware of how gorgeous she is, and having difficulty accepting a compliment.
Second, she must come from a dysfunctional family (bonus points for a bad relationship with at least one of her parents), where she seems to be one of the saner people around.
Third, a heartbreakingly handsome man must fall in love with her, despite all odds, and pledge to stand and fight beside her.
Fourth, she must be super athletic (even if she doesn’t know it herself at the beginning of the novel), and deadly with a weapon.
Fifth, she must have an extremely good understanding of politics and must be a rebel against the government.
Sixth, she must have an edgily-strange name.
For number seven, she must have an extremely low opinion of her personal traits, either by considering herself not a very good person, or utterly average, but must actually be fabulously brave, resourceful, intelligent, and a total pathbreaker.
Lastly, she must go through intense physical, mental, and emotional trauma, get broken in almost every way, and have a very bleak possibility of survival. Because from Indian soap operas to Hollywood, women have to suffer for the show to go on.
This “character template” has often been subtly mocked on the Internet. American cartoonist Adam Ellis created a comic strip specifically to poke fun at the dystopian YA heroine, and also to make it all the more ridiculous by mating it with the parallel rising trend in teen literature- the vampire novel.
There also exist a few Twitter handles that tweet from the point of view of the heroine of a dystopian novel, subtly underlining how improbable both the character development and the plotline usually is. Two such Twitter accounts are “Typical YA Heroine” and “Dystopian YA Novel.”
I Am Woman, Hear Me Roar
From Katniss Everdeen in The Hunger Games to Tris Prior in Divergent, this character trope has been overdone to the point of having been made mainstream. However, it is noteworthy that the characters being brought into the mainstream are strong, proactive women who don’t need anyone to rescue them, unlike the Bellas and the Anastasias of the literary world.
Image Credits: Google Images