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The characters we deserve

Katherine Van Green

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The characters that authors write are important. They show us how our society views different types of people and set standards for readers. At one point, all of the characters had to be white males in order to be good, successful protagonists. While we now have strong female leads like Katniss or Tris, we’re still a long way to fairly and equally representing the world.

I have yet to see a book about a girl who doesn’t need a boy, where a love story isn’t important. Even in The Hunger Games, which does a beautiful job showing a girl who fights and holds her own, there’s a love triangle–which, of course, is all the media focuses on.

Society is rapidly becoming more acceptant of other sexualities and genders, so why isn’t literature showing that?”

Where are the girls who survive perfectly fine without a man? Why is it that every book marketed towards girls needs to have romance? I would be completely satisfied with a fast-paced, action packed novel that contained no relationship whatsoever, but finding something that does that is incredibly difficult these days. Authors need to show that females don’t need to be in a relationship to be happy.

Another thing books lack is LGBT characters. There may be a minor character who’s not straight, like in Allegiant, but never a main or supporting one. Only when the book is about discovering and dealing with sexuality is the protagonist not heterosexual. But in other books, in fantasy novels and horror, not so much. It would be nice for an author to show that my sexuality is existent beyond a last-minute guy who appears for maybe one chapter, if I’m lucky. Where are the bisexual girls, the transgender boys? Society is rapidly becoming more acceptant of other sexualities and genders, so why isn’t literature showing that?

“To be honest, I don’t have a lot of friends. I’m not like the popular girls who wear makeup and girly things, and I’m most certainly not beautiful.” How many times have I heard something like that?

In order to connect with readers, the female protagonist is shown to be worlds apart from the ‘cool’ or ‘popular’ kids, to have an aversion to feminine things. She’s awkward and insecure about her appearance, often comparing herself to others. At first, she’s relatable, but then it gets tired. We get it, sunshine, you’re different. But girls should be told that it’s okay to like girly things.

Writers should make characters [that are] fully developed, a mix of light and dark, as flawed and diverse as the world is.”

Why not have a strong woman who fights off evil and enjoys dresses and pastels? Why can’t a popular girl be nice, and the nerdy girl be the rude one who always makes fun of other girls for being “fake” and “prissy”? Characters can still be relatable and have struggles even if they don’t fit this mold for “successful girl character.” One of my favorite characters is a fierce, chainsaw-wielding young lady who loves fashion, dresses, and lipstick. Authors need to write a combination of feminine and masculine, and show that neither one is better than the other.

Most importantly, authors need to write real, characters with a variety of different interests, body shapes, and personalities. Part of the reason I love John Green’s writing is that his characters are believable. They’re complex, unique, and definitely not perfect. Other writers should make characters like that- fully developed, a mix of light and dark, as flawed and diverse as the world is. Those are the characters that are enjoyable to read. Those are the characters we deserve.

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