There has been a fairy tale image embedded into the young adult psyche through a series of images, literary works and then massive advertisements to perpetuate the fairy tale. It’s called the Damsel In Distress. It’s become a tiresome standard in novels, and young adults are over it. Let’s briefly discuss just two fictional damsels before I explain myself.
SOOKIE STACKHOUSE – OF TRUE BLOOD
Sookie had a great many qualities about her that were appealing to different people for different reasons. In literary works, it’s easy to envision someone exactly the way we want them. When Sookie’s character was brought to life by Anna Paquin on television, well…it leaves less to the imagination. Sookie was feisty, defiant and strong-willed. Indeed. But it seems she was only that way when it came to Bill Compton. From the beginning of the series, I noticed some things about her that were off-putting. First, her attitude. Her being a feeble human fraternizing with the likes of vampires, her tongue was a bit tart. Why? She always expected to be saved. She’d usually run off at the mouth, writing a check that her butt could never cash. Every time, here comes Bill Compton or some other man rushing to save her.
BELLA SWAN – OF TWILIGHT
Bella was nearly identical to Sookie in terms of attitude and zero gratitude, except that Bella knew when to shut up. She actually had a fear of the vampires she dealt with. But the damsel part, always being in need of saving in some way got old over the course of the complete story (Twilight to Breaking Dawn). It was truly when she developed her shield and contributed to the protection of those she loved, did she become a character to admire. Not just like, but love. There’s a difference. But it took 3 damsel-filled novels in the series to get there.
Basically, the damsel routine is pretentious and tiresome. Or as they say, “played out”. Especially for characters who like to run off at the mouth simply because they have a supernatural lover who’ll defend them at all costs. Because the masses have grown tired of that typical plot, I decided immediately that my main female protagonist in Opaque would not possess that trait.
CARLY WIT – OF OPAQUE
While Adam’s dialogue flowed effortlessly, Carly’s required inspiration. It was imperative that the plot be absent of the damsel flaw. I drew inspiration from heroines that I admired. Sofia from Alice Walker’s The Color Purple, Ellen Ripley of the Alien movies, Sarah Connor from Terminator, Selene from Underworld and Alice from Resident Evil. All of these women were strong in character. They were resilient. They fought back, and thought independently of others. Not saying that any of the aforementioned damsels didn’t. It was just my way of contributing to the critical thinking movement.
I am not completely anti-damsel. I just believe that particular character trait shouldn’t be the dominant one. Especially not in the young adult genre. There should be more fresh novels that present strong-willed, courageous young adult characters. Those who aren’t falling down after being chased. Those who don’t run off at the mouth to others who could kill them in an instant. Those who possess more skill and fight, than sass. Basically, the Damsel-In-Distress-Less plot is the wave of the future, and I surely hope that more characters like Carly Wit, Sarah Connor and Ellen Ripley spread like wildfire among the young adult communities. They are our future. Don’t we want them to be strong and proactive?