bennet women

The Importance of The Unlikable Heroine

I’ve always had this tendency to apologize for everything—even things that aren’t my fault, things that actually hurt me or were wrongs against me.

It’s become automatic, a compulsion I am constantly fighting. Even more disturbingly, I’ve discovered in conversations with my female friends that I’m not alone in feeling this impulse to be pleasant, to apologize needlessly, to resist showing anger.

After all, if you’re a woman and you demonstrate anger, you’re a bitch, a harpy, a shrew. You’re told to smile more because you will look prettier; you’re told to calm down even when whatever anger or otherwise “unseemly” emotion you’re experiencing is perfectly justified.

If you don’t, no one will like you, and certainly no one will love you.

I’m not sure when this apologetic tendency of mine emerged. Maybe it began during childhood; maybe the influence of social gender expectations had already begun to affect me on a subconscious level. But if I had to guess, I would assume it emerged later, when I became aware through advertisements, media, and various unquantifiable social pressures of what a girl should be—how to act, how to dress, what to say, what emotions are okay and what emotions are not.

Essentially, I became aware of what I should do, as a girl, to be liked, and of how desperate I should be to achieve that state.

Being liked would be the pinnacle of my personal achievement. I could accomplish things, sure—make good grades, go to a good school, have a stellar career. But would I be liked during all of this? That was the important thing.

It angers me that I still struggle with this. It angers me that even though I’m an intelligent, accomplished adult woman, I still experience automatic pangs of inadequacy and shame when I perceive myself to have somehow disappointed these unfair expectations. I can’t always seem to get my emotions under control, and yet I must—because sometimes those emotions are angry or unpleasant or, God forbid, unattractive, and therefore will inconvenience someone or make someone uncomfortable.

Maybe that’s why, in my fiction—both the stories I read and the stories I write—I’ve always gravitated toward what some might call “unlikable” heroines.

It’s difficult to define “unlikability”; the term itself is nebulous. If you asked ten different people to define unlikability, you would probably receive ten different answers. In fact, I hesitated to write this piece simply because art is not a thing that should be quantified, or shoved into “likable” and “unlikable” components.

But then there are those pangs of mine, that urge to apologize for not being the right kind of woman. Insidious expectations lurk out there for our girls—both real and fictional—to be demure and pleasant, to wilt instead of rally, to smile and apologize and hide their anger so they don’t upset the social construct—even when such anger would be expected, excused, even applauded, in their male counterparts.

So for my purposes here, I’ll define a “likable heroine” as one who is unobjectionable. She doesn’t provoke us or challenge our expectations. She is flawed, but not offensively. She doesn’t make us question whether or not we should like her, or what it says about us that we do.

Let me be clear: There is nothing wrong with these “likable” heroines. I can think of plenty such literary heroines whom I adore:

Fire in Kristin Cashore’s Fire. Karou in Laini Taylor’s Daughter of Smoke and Bone series. Jo March in Little Women. Lizzie Bennet in Pride and Prejudice. The Penderwick sisters in Jeanne Birdsall’s delightful Penderwicks series. Arya (at least, in the early books) in A Song of Ice and Fire. Sarah from A Little Princess. Meg Murry from A Wrinkle in Time. Matilda in Roald Dahl’s classic book of the same name.

These heroines are easy to love and root for. They have our loyalty on the first page, and that never wavers. We expect to like them, for them to be pleasant, and they are. Even their occasional unpleasantness, as in the case of temperamental Jo March, is endearing.

What, then, about the “unlikable” heroines?

These are the “difficult” characters. They demand our love but they won’t make it easy. The unlikable heroine provokes us. She is murky and muddled. We don’t always understand her. She may not flaunt her flaws but she won’t deny them. She experiences moral dilemmas, and most of the time recognizes when she has done something wrong, but in the meantime she will let herself be angry, and it isn’t endearing, cute, or fleeting. It is mighty and it is terrifying. It puts her at odds with her surroundings, and it isn’t always easy for readers to swallow.

She isn’t always courageous. She may not be conventionally strong; her strength may be difficult to see. She doesn’t always stand up for herself, or for what is right. She is not always nice. She is a hellion, a harpy, a bitch, a shrew, a whiner, a crybaby, a coward. She lies even to herself.

In other words, she fails to walk the fine line we have drawn for our heroines, the narrow parameters in which a heroine must exist to achieve that elusive “likability”:

Nice, but not too nice.

Badass, but not too badass, because that’s threatening.

Strong, but ultimately pliable.

(And, I would add, these parameters seldom exist for heroes, who enjoy the limitless freedoms of full personhood, flaws and all, for which they are seldom deemed “unlikable” but rather lauded.)

Who is this “unlikable” heroine?

She is Amy March from Little Women. She is Briony from Ian McEwan’s Atonement. Katsa from Kristin Cashore’s Graceling. Jane Austen’s Emma Woodhouse. Sansa from A Song of Ice and Fire. Mary from The Secret Garden. She is Philip Pullman’s Lyra, and C. S. Lewis’s Susan, and Rowling’s first-year Hermione Granger. She is Katniss Everdeen. She is Scarlett O’Hara.

These characters fascinate me. They are arrogant and violent, reckless and selfish. They are liars and they are resentful and they are brash. They are shallow, not always kind. They may be aggressive, or not aggressive enough; the parameters in which a female character can acceptably display strength are broadening, but still dishearteningly narrow. I admire how the above characters embrace such “unbecoming” traits (traits, I must point out, that would not be noteworthy in a man; they would simply be accepted as part of who he is, no questions asked).

These characters learn from their mistakes, and they grow and change, but at the end of the day, they can look at themselves in the mirror and proclaim, “Here I am. This is me. You may not always like me—I may not always like me—but I will not be someone else because you say I should be. I will not lose myself to your expectations. I will not become someone else just to be liked.”

When I wrote my first novel, The Cavendish Home for Boys and Girls, I knew some readers would have a hard time stomaching the character of Victoria. She is selfish, arrogant, judgmental, rigid, and sometimes cruel. Even at the end of the novel, by which point she has evolved tremendously, she isn’t particularly likable, if we go with the above definition.

I had similar concerns about the heroine of my second novel, The Year of Shadows. Olivia Stellatella is a moody twelve-year-old who isolates herself from her peers at school, from her father, from everything that could hurt her. Her circumstances at the beginning of the novel are inarguably terrible: Her mother abandoned their family several months prior, with no explanation. Her father conducts the city orchestra, which is on the verge of bankruptcy. He neglects his daughter in favor of saving his livelihood. He sells their house and moves them into the symphony hall’s storage rooms, where Olivia sleeps on a cot and lives out of a suitcase. She calls him The Maestro, refusing to call him Dad. She hates him. She blames him for her mother leaving.

Olivia is angry and confused. She is sarcastic, disrespectful, and she tells her father exactly what she thinks of him. She lashes out at everyone, even the people who want to help her. Sometimes her anger blinds her, and she must learn how to recognize that.

I knew Olivia’s anger would be hard for some readers to understand, or that they would understand but still not like her.

This frightened me.

As a new author, the prospect of writing these heroines—these selfish, angry, difficult heroines—was a daunting one. What if no one liked them? What if, by extension, no one liked me?

But I’ve allowed the desire to be liked thwart me too many times. The fact that I nearly let my fear discourage me from telling the stories of these two “unlikable” girls showed me just how important it was to tell their stories.

I know my friends and I aren’t the only women who feel that constant urge to apologize, to demur, to rein in anger and mutate it into something more socially acceptable.

I know there are girls out there who, like me at age twelve—like Olivia, like Victoria—are angry or arrogant or confused, and don’t know how to handle it. They see likable girls everywhere—on the television, in movies, in books—and they accordingly paste on strained smiles and feel ashamed of their unladylike grumpiness and ambition, their unseemly aggression.

I want these girls to read about Victoria and Olivia—and Scarlett, Amy, Lyra, Briony—and realize there is more to being a girl than being liked. There is more to womanhood than smiling and apologizing and hiding those darker emotions.

I want them to sift through the vast sea of likable heroines in their libraries and find more heroines who are not always happy, not always pleasant, not always good. Heroines who make terrible decisions. Heroines who are hungry and ambitious, petty and vengeful, cowardly and callous and selfish and gullible and unabashedly sensual and hateful and cunning. Heroines who don’t always act particularly heroic, and don’t feel the need to, and still accept themselves at the end of the day regardless.

Maybe the more we write about heroines like this, the less susceptible our girl readers will be to the culture of apology that surrounds them.

Maybe they will grow up to be stronger than we are, more confident than we are. Maybe they will grow up in a world brimming with increasingly complex ideas about what it means to be a heroine, a woman, a person.

Maybe they will be “unlikable” and never even think of apologizing for it.

favorite fictional women

➺ [1/10] family relationships

The Bennet Sisters - Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen

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get mad independent and don’t you ever forget it
got some dirt on your shoulder, then let me brush it off for ya
if you’re feeling me, put your five high
that’s my girl

anonymous asked:

I just saw your post on random facts from p&p from 2005 and I was like woah, I never noticed that!! Could you please share some other random facts cause they sound super cool!! Please and thank you!!

  • The book Elizabeth is reading in the opening shot is titled “First Impressions” which was the original title of the book, before Jane Austen changed it to Pride & Prejudice.
  • The chaos and busyness of the Bennet’s house contrasted with the cleanliness and sharpness of Netherfield.
  • The two dance scenes sharply contrasted each other to highlight the differences in their societal standings. The Meryton ball was dusty, dirty, and sweaty, whereas the Netherfield ball was elegant, clean, and sharp. 
  • Matthew MacFadyen had such poor eyesight that in the grand scene where he walks across the field towards Elizabeth, he is actually walking towards a red coat so he knew which direction to walk towards.
  • Tamzin Merchant (Georgiana Darcy) did her own piano playing for the film.
  • The differences in the costumes between the families highlights the financial gap between the Bennet’s and Caroline Bingley. The Bennet women wear gowns styled from the 1790s, and Caroline wears gowns styled from the early 1800s.
  • The “practice proposal” scene with Mr. Bingley and Mr. Darcy was improvised.
  • Mr. Darcy and Elizabeth’s first dance scene was shot in one take.
  • The birds that fly away in the scene by the lake after Elizabeth rejects Mr. Collin’s proposal were startled by the director yelling “Action!”.
  • The close ups of Mr. Darcy’s hand reinforces the theme of the goal to win a man’s “hand in marriage”, and alluding to the fact that Elizabeth does indeed eventually have his hand in marriage.
  • Elizabeth wears earthy colors to reiterate her down to earth personality, un-deterred by modern fashion styles.
  • The scene where Elizabeth is at Pemberley is all about her discovering Darcy has a sensitive side. She admires his appreciation for beauty, his culture, and she loves him for that.
  • The Bingley’s wealth is only a couple generations old. Caroline is so aggressive because she feels threatened by her roots.
  • The bed that Jane and Elizabeth share serves as a mirror to their relationship. They start off so close and together, then grow further apart, keeping secrets and having backs turned towards each other, then finally are together again after Bingley’s proposal.
7

19 Asian Actresses on Major U.S. Cable Network Shows

Arden Cho (Korean) as Kira Yukimura on Teen Wolf 

Aubrey Anderson-Emmons (Korean) as Lily Tucker-Pritchett on Modern Family

Archie Panjabi (Sindhi) as Kalinda Sharma on The Good Wife

Chloe Bennet (Chinese and Jewish) as Skye on Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.

Grace Park (Korean) as Kono Kalakaua on Hawaii Five-0

Hannah Simone (Indian and German/Italian/Greek) as Cece Parekh on New Girl

Jamie Chung (Korean) as Mulan on Once Upon a Time

Jenna Ushkowitz (Korean) as Tina Cohen-Chang on Glee

Jessica Lu (Chinese and Japanese) as Ming Huang on Awkward.

Maggie Q (Vietnamese and Irish/Polish) as Nikita on Nikita

Michaela Conlin (Chinese and Irish) as Angela Montenegro on Bones

Mindy Kaling (Tamil and Bengali) as Mindy Lahiri on The Mindy Project

Ming-Na Wen (Chinese) as Melinda May on Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.

Parminder Nagra (Indian) as Meera Malik on The Blacklist

Reshma Shetty (Indian) as Divya Katdare on Royal Pains

Sandra Oh (Korean) as Cristina Yang on Grey’s Anatomy

Shay Mitchell (Filipina and Scottish/Irish) as Emily Fields on Pretty Little Liars

Tania Gunadi (Indonesian) as Private Park on Enlisted

Yunjin Kim (Korean) as Karen Kim on Mistresses 

This was made in response to an anon we recently got who asked,

(Image reads - anonymous asked wocinsolidarity: We all know Lucy Liu is an industry favorite but do you know of any other Eastern Asia (or Asia in general) woc actresses?)

So rather then do a laundry list, I thought it would be cool to compile a photoset of someof the Asian actresses currently on television shows that aren’t Lucy Liu (though we do love us some Joan Watson). I asked around, and made this list based on my own TV watching and suggestions from people I know. So A) I don’t actually know if all of these shows are good or not and B) if one of your faves is missing it wasn’t done maliciously. 

*Disclaimers: All images used were found on Google. We do not own or claim to own any of these photos. All information about ethnic identity was found from Wikipedia, so let us know if anything is incorrect! 

Also: Sorry for how bad the quality of the photoset is. 

Edit: also I’m so sorry I clearly can’t count, this is only 19! 

@thestevechen : #TBT Another one from my archives to tie us over during the mini #AgentsofSHIELD hiatus. #badassandbeautiful #women