There has been a lot said and argued about recently over the roles of men and women and the examples set by those in the public eye. This started before the VMA’s and that profound display of backwards. I’m going to indulge this for a moment to make my point clearer later. Miley Cyrus wanted to shake off the Hannah Montana image. She wanted to show that she has grown up and isn’t that little girl anymore. So we got the horrendously offensive VMA performance just in case anyone was left wondering what kind of woman Miley has become. Even Will Smith couldn’t believe it. Miley didn’t morph into a woman like Taylor Swift or Kelly Clarkston. Miley turned herself into a slut. That’s the nicest word I could think to use. What kind of role model is she now? How many parent’s went to their daughter’s rooms and threw out every Hannah Montana item they owned? I don’t know. But I do know this: as writer’s we have the opportunity to create better role models.
I know the world is harsh, ugly, vulgar and crass. I know that you will feel that you need it in your writing at some point. Life isn’t rainbows and butterflies all of the time. I accept that. But we are writing the movies of tomorrow. Don’t believe me? Hunger Games, Harry Potter, Twilight, Percy Jackson. And even if we never make that move and continue to “only” influence those who read our books, we still have influence. With the exception of Twilight, what do these other stories have in common that seem to have captured the nation’s attention? Why are they loved by people of all ages, genders, races? I believe it comes down to two things: Strong, smart women; Strong smart men. The women in these books aren’t scantily clad bimbos. They don’t throw themselves at the men. They don’t have gratuitous sex. They use their brains. They show courage and toughness. They are more than what is seen on the outside. The men are brave, decent and flawed. They aren’t all muscle and no brain. They have depth, emotion and make mistakes. These are real men and women. These are people worth making role models out of.
As authors we are creating new worlds for people to explore. Must they be worse than the world around us? Sometimes, yes. Must we dwell on the dark and ugly? To make a point, build suspense, show contrast, absolutely. Can we make it something that our children will be proud to point to? I hope so. My wife made a comment at some point as I was writing “Kyle By Fire” about writing it to be a book I’d be happy letting my kids and grandkids read. That really affected me. How many writers do you know that seem to write only what they believe people want to read? How many believe that to be realistic or get noticed, they need to pull a Miley? Of these multi-million dollar franchises I’ve named how many pulled a Miley? It isn’t really what people want. It may be what media and magazines and Facebook seem to say, but it isn’t what the people who buy your book want. How many times does Percy look at Anabeth and think, “She’s got a nice body!”? Or does Harry look at Ginny and go, “Hey sexy baby.”? Zero. How often to these girls don lingerie or get naked? Zero.
I’m throwing down the gauntlet. I’m issuing the challenge! Write books you wouldn’t mind your 8-10 year old reading. Write books you’d be proud to show your mother. Write characters people want to be. Characters they will dress up as for every book signing, every new release. Girls of all ages can be Hermione. Boys can all be Percy. I challenge you to write characters you want showing up on your doorstep on Halloween, holding out a bag and saying, “Trick or treat.” We can change the perception of what boys and girls, men and women are supposed to be. We can show them who they can be. We can change the world, one page at a time.
This is the Novel Mage saying, *POOF*