Writing Male and Female Characters: Why We Need More Women In The Writers Room

Recently, Wil Wheaton posted an article about the fact that Gillian Anderson was bothered by something. The fact that the writing team for the X-Files was all male.   Here is the link to the article. While this is indeed annoying, it is actually quite common. Despite the fact that Hollywood has called for change, little change is happening, and the status quo is still in effect. This could create a problem however. The issue being that the show has a team of men who are writing both male and female characters. There’s nothing wrong with men writing female characters. The issue is that there is a “team” of writers, and yet there is no room for even a single female writer on that team, meaning there is no true female representation or perspective. Writing for the opposite gender can be difficult. I’ll give you a few examples from myself that are interesting to consider.

As a writer who does not have a team, I cannot really and truly understand the male perspective. I have written male characters; many of them, but I am not an expert on maleness. For example, when writing a book that should be out this winter called Dragon Fire, Angel Light. Both of the main characters are male. In fact they’re males who love each other and have chosen to be together despite the fact that both are a bit supernatural and it creates issues. When writing the characters, while I can make the males male, some of their mannerisms and things that they say aren’t exactly the most male. There are quite a few instances in which the characters engage in what would be considered “mushy” behavior.  They will come straight out with the “i love yous” and the “I want to look in your eyes” when having sex (oh golly). They have no qualms about calling each other “my love”, “my lover” using terms like “making love” instead of just “doing it”. It’s all very romantic, but is it male? The fact is, I don’t really know because I’m not male.

Another example is my book Tales of the Driss, Krystal Dragons. It’s a fantasy novel based off characters and actors that have influenced and inspired me (thank you Dean O’Gorman and Aidan Turner). These guys aren’t lovers, they’re brothers, but even with their lovers, they don’t act very male. They have long conversation about how much they love their lovers after sex, they wax romantic when they’re asking their lovers to marry them, once again coming straight out with the “I love yous”.  They talk constantly about the merits of love and how it’s effected them. I don’t know if this is especially male either. Do men often go off on romantic mush fests? Do they just lie in bed and talk about how much they love their lovers after sex? Once again, I couldn’t say.

Screenplay Harold Godwinson has gone through many incarnations. and many drafts, however, the story has always stayed the same. So the relationship between Harold and his consort Edith has always been the same, and they face the same issues. An over romantic man driven more by feeling than by power, gain or perhaps even reason. Instead he’s more invested in justice, happiness, and caring. which is, once again not very manish, of so it would seem. One would think that the second most powerful man in Britain would be mad for the power that he could claim for himself, going forth on his own conquests and calculating his possibility for advancement. That’s not the way he’s written because when I looked at his life, that’s not the way he seemed. A man writing for this character might have seen the more calculating man in search for power. I did not. He loves his consort, he loves his land, he’s not out for himself, he’s looking out for everyone else, which may or may not be very male.

There are many stereotypes that still exist when one writes female characters. This may be because that is how women have always been portrayed to men. Seeing as history and many of the great works from the past were written by men, the male perspective may have overshadowed some of the truths about women. Throughout history, women have always been cast in certain roles. The two most classic being the fool and the seductress, or sometimes even both. If we look at the Bible, there is the story of Adam and Eve. There is Eve who is the first one seduced in the garden to eat the fruit which makes her the fool, and then she convinces Adam to eat the fruit as well, in a way seducing him into doing so. No one considers the fact that the second hand information given to her from Adam about the Fruit may not have impressed the danger of eating it. There is the story of Pandora who just couldn’t resist opening a box because, you know, the curious woman. There’s the story of Samson and Delilah, the seductress who betrays her lover through seduction and lust, and there’s the fallacy that Mary Magdalene was a whore. If we can break the stereotypes, then we can write better women. And who is the best at understanding women and the stereotypes applied to them? Women.

While it’s not a bad thing for men to write female characters; some female characters are wonderful, powerful, beautiful, and non-stereotypical. They’ve been written by great authors like Ibsen, Tolkien Hardy and so many others. However it’s also not a bad idea to have a woman to at least help better understand women and how women think, act, interact. And when you can have a team of writers, I’m sure that there’s room for at least one woman. Women need to be heard, as the female voice is just as important as the male voice, especially when a woman can write a woman for women. She wants the same opportunities that male writers get. She’s just as good, just as creative, just as interesting, and has the added bonus of being a woman. This also applies to people of color, but that’s a discussion for another time. Maybe next blog. Women want a chance to write. If Hollywood gives it to them, Hollywood won’t be sorry.

 

Recent Issues In Hollywood. You know, the diversity thing and the rehashing…

Hello ladies and gents!! Decided to do a little something different this time around!! I have been checking out entertainment and film news lately, and there are some interesting things going on. First of all, Jennifer Lawrence pointed out that when the Sony emails came out, she noticed she was not being paid as much as her male counterparts. Also, Viola Davis recently pointed out that people of color were not offered as many opportunities as their Caucasian counterparts. Also there was the bit where Matt Damon said on his show, “Project Green Light” that diversity behind the camera was not as important as diversity in front of it.

Jennifer Lawrence makes an interesting point when she said that she was not paid as much as the male actors in her films, but in some ways, that has been the way that it has always been. Males have generally made more money than females throughout history regardless of what profession they are in. Why is that? I could not say for sure, but it sort of reeks of some sort of superiority thing, and it is definitely a control thing. Consider a scenario where everybody made the same amount of money for doing the same job. This would be ideal, and would make everyone equal. However, the world is not ideal. Not that that ideal situation cannot be achieved. It certainly can. The problem is, we’re not there yet in any facet of society. While Americans claim that there is equality between men and women, it is not necessarily true. If it were true, then we would be in that ideal zone. So that does not exist yet. While women currently have some amount of respect in Hollywood, because they do their jobs and do them well, that does not make them equal to their male co-star. If they were, everybody would be making the same kind of money. Ms. Lawrence is also right when she says that when you ask why you are not getting what you want or need, people tend to call a person difficult. It is especially easy to call a woman difficult. I even tweeted recently to Elijah Wood that, “it is easy to call a woman difficult merely because you don’t want to deal with them”. Again, true and not true. While there are some women who genuinely want to do things in order to better their situation, there are those who are in fact difficult. So there is a difference between that woman who wants to make things better and the woman who is truly difficult and a pain. And certainly there are male actors who are difficult as well. It is not a solely female issue. There are many people in the film industry that are just plain hard to work with. It is whether or not the reputation is true to the person that is the issue. Some people are difficult, others they want you to think are difficult.

Diversity is an interesting watch-word these days. Viola Davis says more people of color, Matt Damon says not necessarily. She’s right, he’s wrong. We need people of color in front of the camera, behind the camera, writing, directing, doing costumes, music, everything! Not on every film, but it is best to make sure that both cast and crew are as diverse as possible. Having more diverse people means having more creativity, ideas, direction, whatever. Not only that, but an Asian person, say a Chinese person, or a Korean person, or a Japanese person, Malaysian person, or what have you, are going to know more about Korean, Chinese, Japanese culture than a Caucasian person who is trying to write for them. They know their culture better than a person from outside of it. This is also true for Hispanic people, African American people, or people of African descent, whoever the cultural person is. So we need those writers and directors and producers. They will make the project more authentic. (one thing that kind of offended me was the fact that they chose Scarlett Johannsen to be the lead in “Ghost In The Shell”. Any hard core anime fan has seen it a million times, any science fiction fan has seen it a couple of times, and then there are people who just love good Japanese animation who loved it too. This was the perfect opportunity to use a Japanese actress, but they decided to go with a woman who was not Japanese. This made me incredibly sad…)

Last thing that has been bothering me lately. Recently, Hugh Jackman was in a movie called “Pan”. It sounds to me like it didn’t go very well, or at least it was not as great of a success as people expected it to be. What is the reason for this? It is not the fault of the actors, as I am sure that they all did the best they could. It was perhaps because of the fact that the story of Peter Pan has been told a million times in a million ways. And while each method of telling the story might be slightly different, it’s still the same story. Very often people get bored when they are offered the same thing over and over again (what’s the definition of insanity again?). If it is a story people have heard over and over again, they are going to lose interest. Batman=done to death, Marvel=also done to death, films about zombies=done to death!! Where’s all the great stuff that people used to make? The quirky science fantasy stuff and the action flicks that weren’t sequels, and the comedies that didn’t run off of bad sex jokes? All gone. Traded for rehashing, endless sequels, and a whole bunch of other stuff that nobody asked for. I will admit, there are a few dramas that I am anxious to see, and I am going to go and see “Star Wars” at least once (I hope I am not disappointed). Somehow it disappoints me that studios aren’t willing to take risks anymore. They want guaranteed hits as opposed to the films that may merely break even. What that does though is it leaves the little guy, passionate film makers who have the drive but not the resources, out in the cold. I know many fine young film makers who are starting out on fan films, and webseries, and other ambitious projects who would love nothing better than to be given a chance to make a film with the resources that the production companies and studios spend on the big guys. If we don’t help them out, then there are so many diverse stories that will never be told. Many of the people I know that are working on film projects are young people of color, and they deserve a chance. So lets finish with the rehashing and give these guys a chance!!

Thank you for reading this post. I know it is slightly long winded and perhaps a bit dour, but it was an opinion I just had to get out. I appreciate your readership!! If you like what you see, or you have an opinion, please comment, follow or like. This is my opinion, and I thank you for giving it a read!! Cheers and many thanks!!

Shara