Monday, July 08, 2013

Maybe We've Had Enough Of Talking About Guys?

"Where are all the kickbutt girls in YA without the romance?" a kickbutt girl asked Sarah of GreenBeanTeenQueen.

Well, a few years ago, a literary agent got a lot of attention on-line after she did a blog post stating that YA must have romance. I don't know how much influence she had, but it does seem as if love is overly represented in YA books about girls.

But YA fiction isn't the only place where the search for love rules. Sarah's questioner in search of something to read is not the only female who has grown weary with boy-meets-girl. Last Wednesday, Gina Barreca's column, Movies Centering On Women Rare But Welcome, was published in The Hartford Courant.

It turns out that what both women of different generations are looking for are stories in which "The lives of the women on which they're centered are not obsessed by romance..." Because, you know, love isn't all there is to life.

Barreca thinks that the movie industry would create more movies centering on women who have something more going on in their lives than looking for a man if there were more women script writers and directors. If what's happening in YA is any indication, I don't know if bringing more women in would bring about the shift Barreca hopes for. A lot of the YA books about girls and romance are written by women, and women are well represented in the business side of children's/YA publishing.

Barreca concludes her essay with a description of the Bechdel Test, created by comic strip author and artist Alison Bechdel. The Bechdel Test is applied to movies and TV shows, but let's consider applying it to YA fiction as well. To pass the test, a YA book would:

1. Have to have at least two women (we'll say girls) in it

2. Who talk to each other

3. About something other then men (boys)

Seriously, how hard can that be?


david elzey said...

i sorta broached this topic a few years back

and lately i've been seeing the pendulum swing away from the "more books for guys" back toward "enough about boys!" this, i have learned, is a constant pendulous topic.

but in the three years since i originally posted the topic i have come to believe that the "real" problem isn't in the writing but the editing: editors (or their assistants reading through submissions) should be the ones applying the bechdel test and deciding which books to published based on well-rounded characters and genders. if word got out that your book has a better chance getting pub'd if it could pass the test you'd see nothing BUT strong female characters and perhaps fewer stereotypes.

now if only there was a corollary for race in YA...

Gail Gauthier said...

You did get quite a discussion going on this.

I think your point about this being a top down situation is a good one. I know a fantasy writer who was pushed by either an editor or an agent to add a kiss, which she didn't think worked all that well, to a book. And, yes, if word got out that editors were interested in female characters dealing with nonromantic situations, editorial offices would be flooded with them.

Imagine The Hunger Games without the love triangle. In the first book, at least, it was just an annoying distraction. Fighting for your life in a dystopian, post-apocalyptic world isn't enough of a story?