When Urania was young/ All thought her heavenly/ With age her eyes grow larger/ But her form unmaidenly

Monday, December 19, 2005

SBD - Butch Heroines

- or, how I learned to stop worrying and love the Xena

Travelling swordmaster. Privateer captain. Professional assassin.

As I noted before in regards to romance, overheard conversations almost always sound stilted and stupid. I remembered my brief moment of shallow and partisan pedantry (okay, years - seventh and eighth grade, to be exact) where I was wracked by contempt for the transparent and pathetic reality-denying wish fulfillment of the deadly female protagonist. Yeah, yeah - Boadicea and Joan of Arc and Grace O'Malley and the occasional feisty eighty year old who beats the stuffing out of the teenage thug who tries to mug her: woman bites dog. I thought about the girls reading that stuff and thought: you wish. Which was also my thought when I saw the transformation of their remarkably stupid suburban housecats into semi-feral wisecracking sidekicks: empathic/telepathic Panthers O' Fury.

But then, of course, after those couple of years it occurred to me to look around at myself and the other boys reading about Mighty Hewed Bongaboom the Barbarian and his apparently pheromone-laden aphrodisiacal mansweat. None of us exactly well-muscled cheerleader-laying quarterbacks ourselves, eh? And the wizards and wild geniuses that somehow transmuted our own extraordinary mental talents (manifested in our 99th percentile scores on Iowa Test of Basic Skills - wowsers!) underrewarded by the Universe and undervalued by our peers into matters of cosmic destiny-making significance. Oh, and our social awkwardness? That ALWAYS seems to happen when you're the very first representative of the next stage in human evolution - just the (temporary) price one pays for being Homo Sapiens-er.

Look, there ARE no professional assassins, and there's no particular genius involved in murder for hire. Brilliant swordsmen or women like "martial artists" of all stripes - only have impact within a rigidly controlled artificial system of duels or tournaments, not as significant factors in war, or even domestic policing. Pirates aren't Red Sonja or Captain Blood, let alone Jack Sparrow.

And the extremes of genre fiction are the least of it. So, if a vicious nerd-gone-big Tom Clancy could fantasize into the brainless popular collective mind a virtuous ubercompetent CIA operative like Jim Ryan, with all the pernicious social implications of that particular invention, what's wrong with a little leather bustier-enhanced sword swinging?