What I find interesting, especially in United States culture, is our obsession with Power. Anything that might take Power away from a person, individual, or business, is frowned upon. This has always, to some extent, been true within the United States, but in recent years and political events I think the obsession with power (under the mask of freedom and rights) has gotten more extensive and more combative.
How, then, is this titled the Power of Love? Simply put, love is one of those things that involves surrendering power – at least in my opinion. To love someone is to surrender yourself and become equal with them – having no more power than they have. This can be tremendously difficult in real life – the United States culture is built around individual power and surrendering that power is not something we do easily or readily. I would argue that this self-same culture of power is one of the primary driving forces behind our 50% divorce rate AND our reluctance to allow non-traditional marriages to be recognized by the states (let alone the church). Each time we change a law to allow more freedom someone has to give up some amount of power and that is something that the U.S. culture is reluctant to do.
But that’s just some political ranting. My apologies. Let’s get back to how this relates to writing and storytelling.
Love is a tricky thing to write . For one thing, we have this cultural perception (again, speaking from a U.S. standpoint) that love is somehow a female problem. Men don’t have to deal with the difficulties of love in most of our entertainment. It is also one of the most potent weapons in the female arsenal and, until recently, was the primary weapon available in most of our media entertainment females.
So, while there was a variety of ways for male characters to conquer their foes, female ones had pretty much a single option. It may have taken on many forms – sex, marriage, cute eye assault to name a few – it all came down to one basic power. This left female characters with a very shallow move pool which made it hard to have interesting female protagonists. Yes, there are exceptions to that rule, but that is what they are – exceptions.
The why of this, I would think, is the most fascinating part. Why would we purposely have ‘weak’ female characters. Other than the oft-cited (and proven) desire to keep women ‘in their place’, what does this acknowledge about U.S. culture?
It acknowledges our fear of surrender and equality. We don’t want equally strong female protagonists because that would mean acknowledging them as equally valuable and capable – something the primarily male-driven U.S. culture refuses to do. We don’t want to surrender, because that would mean acknowledging that we were defeated; that we were wrong. There are very few that are willing to do that.
Our characters, though, have to. The truly epic romances and relationships of fiction involve characters of equality coming together. But that is incredibly hard to write. I’ve been trying to make it work in my novel, but it’s darn hard – there’s no reason for these two characters to be equal except that they fell in love. And they did – I can feel it when I write it. But how to make that work and come out eludes me.
Just some thoughts! 🙂