In the last few years, a flurry of different books has been published with the female characters being young, naÃ¯ve, lost or confused, and in need of guidance. The guidance they receive is not from a parent or guardian, but from a powerful man, who sweeps the character off her feet, and by the end of the book, he has granted her almost every wish. If society does affect the storyline, what does this trend say about the voracious readers who devour every word of books like “Twilight” or “Fifty Shades of Grey”?
Society has had a peculiar view of women throughout the centuries. In the 19th century, women were considered delicate and chaste, hiding their bodies with modest clothing for fear of eliciting the wrong response from their neighbors and society as a whole.
As time progressed to today, the cultural view of sexuality changed. Women are altering the way they dress, think, act and speak.
Literature is viewed as one of the factors in this change. In literature, women have been portrayed in many different ways. Weak and sensual, to strong and domineering, writers have run the gamut with female characters. Women readers identify with these characters, find comfort or strength in them and occasionally use them as role models. As society’s view of the world affects the popularity of topics and stories, a question comes to mind: when do said topics and stories begin to affect society?
In regards to “50 Shades of Grey” and “Twilight,” both book series portray the lead female character with the “damsel in distress” stereotype. Why do these characters appear to entice society?
An argument can be made that many women have reached a point since the height of the Women’s Rights Movement where they wish to be seen as soft and delicate again. It can also be argued that the idea of this type of fantasy life is more interesting than cold, hard reality.
The fact that women across the U.S. are intrigued with these books is undeniable. “Fifty Shades of Grey” has been on the USA Today’s Best-Selling Books list for more than 25 weeks. Without a doubt, it is popular.
For some women, the line between fantasy and reality has blurred. These women’s stable homes and jobs may grey in comparison to what they feel they deserve. The fantasy life has become more important than their reality.
If this fantasy world can affect part of our aging generations to this extreme, one must wonder what it is possibly doing to our younger generations. Do such storylines and fairytales of unrealistically perfect romances set starry-eyed ideas in the minds of younger readers?
This is a question that may only be answered by those younger people themselves. Will they buy into the view that women must be weak to be loved?
With media today, image is everything. In many of the most popular shows on TV, the female characters are on two ends of the spectrum: soft and helpless, or strong and believing they are in no need of assistance.
Most women do not fall into either of these categories, but somewhere in-between, depending on the personality of the specific person. Women are not, as a whole, completely weak creatures that need to be coddled, nor are they strong super-beings to be worshipped.
This middle ground should be embraced and loved, not tossed aside for some fictional life, nor ignored for the inability to match a fantasy.
One can hope that the next best-selling book is a balanced, realistic novel. Ideally, it will be a novel written at a higher educational level than the current fare that is being offered.
If we raise the educational bar of our entertainment, we may see a rise in the expectations and ideals of our readers. Characters who are more realistic will help readers identify with reality, instead of pushing it aside for a fantastical story that will never materialize.
Fantasy can be a good psychological outlet for the frustrations in one’s life, however it should not be allowed to dominate that life.
Real life does not end in fairytales. Real life is comprised of struggle and acceptance, joy and grief, happiness and compromise. Life should be lived, not just dreamed.