I’ve been a bit quiet lately as I’ve been preparing for National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) which starts tomorrow. My idea for NaNoWriMo involves a lot of incredibly flawed characters exploring trauma and revenge. I’ve been watching a lot of anime to get into this headspace, specifically Code Geass, Death Note and Elfen Lied. I enjoy dark stories with flawed characters because it delves into the dark part of humanity we’re all capable of. There is a very slim line between the antihero and the villain depending on the type of antihero.
However, I’ve noticed the most popular antiheroes tend to be men and they tend to get more adoration than female antiheroes. Why is it as an audience and a society we are more forgiving of the things men do? For example, many people hate Breaking Bad’s Skyler White and root for Walter White despite Walter do far more despicable things than Skyler ever does. It got so bad that the actress who played Skyler, Anna Gunn wrote an opinion piece in the New York Times about the vitriolic response her character received.
Light Yagami from Death Note is another example of a character who does horrendous things and yet he gets a pass because he’s a handsome young genius. His supposed ‘good’ motivation of killing criminals is quickly thrown aside as he begins to play games with the Japanese Police Force. He’s a full blown sociopath and yet somehow I was still rooting for him to win for some bizarre reason. Despite the fact that every woman in the show was a sexy lamp I still found it a compelling watch and would definitely watch it again. There is something so addictive about watching Light indulge his darkest desires and god complex. His crazy laugh is also something to behold
Then there is Elfen Lied which is the most gut wrenching thing I have ever watched. Absolutely everybody in the show manages to be horrible but sympathetic at the same time. It was so dark I was depressed for days after watching it. Yet I’d probably watch it again as it is a very complex tale about identity, revenge, regret and the nature of humanity. It also features two female antiheroes which was a nice change after watching the sausage fest that is Death Note. However, almost everybody in the show is tragic and flawed so it takes a bit of the impact away from the female antiheroes as there is no morally superior person to contrast against.
There still seems to be a shortage of compelling, complicated women as antiheroes that are adored the same way their male counterparts are. There has been a lot written about female likeability and it will continue to be an issue in fiction as it is in real life.
As I contemplate my own work I’m about to embark on for NaNoWriMo which sees a female protagonist slowly descend into darkness. I want to know if there will be a point when writers can write complex morally dubious female characters and have them admired as much as their male counterparts?