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There's been a lot of meta floating around about fandom, femslash and, by extension, female characters, and it's prompted me to take a good hard look at my character preferences, and why I like the characters I do.


Given the context of the previous discussions, I should mention I'm coming at this from the perspective of someone who is primarily a gen fan (and before anyone takes offense, I'm not implying anything about the quality of ship-focused fic, and I'm not adverse to reading good slash/femslash/het fic - see my list of recs for Merlin, for instance - bur I'm am totally addicted to friendship-focused fic.)

People who know me in person, or have the misfortune good luck to often discuss movies with me, will know that female characters in movies - and the characterisation and the lack thereof - are generally pretty hot topics for me. ([profile] bob_ette in particular has to put up with a lot of my ranting - sorry about that.) I like female characters. I like them even more when they aren't just there as an obligatory love interest for the hero, or a screaming-damsel-in-distress that requires saving, and I like them most of all when their gender is shown as secondary to them being compentent, well-rounded characters.

However, the current discussions have prompted my to take a closer look at my favourite characters, and I've noticed a disturbing tendency for my characters-of-fannish-obsession to be male. Even when there are awesome female characters in the series, 'my' character/s, the characters I care about most, tend to be male. Not always, but often. If I had to chose, I'd prefer to read about Luke Sykwalker over Leia Organa, John Crichton over Aeryn Sun, Sirius Black over Hermione Granger. Even though I love those female characters dearly, even though in many cases they hit my character-kinks better than the guys.

This realisation prompted a lot of fannish soul-searching. Despite my desire to see more female characters, and some of the kick-arse female characters out there, did something in my subconcious really prefer male characters, and if so, why? (Besides, of course, the 'I think they're hot' factor, which I'm certain has some effect but seems a little simplistic as an overall rationale.)

Being the good little engineer that I am, I decided that the only way to discover any internal bias was to look at the complete set of evidence. I went through my past and current fandoms, listing my primary and runner up 'fannish characters' for each fandom. 'Fannish characters' is, in this case, defined as the character/s I am most attached to/interested in, not necessarily the character/s I read/watch/discuss the most (because that gets into issues about availability of fics/vids/meta, and that's another variable for another argument).

LIST OF DOOM: (runner up 'fannish characters' in brackets)

Star Wars: Luke (Leia, Han)
Dark Angel: Max (Logan)
Farscape: John (Aeryn, Chianna)
Stargate SG-1: Daniel, Jack (Sam, Teal'c, Cameron (later seasons))
Buffy the Vampire Slayer: Buffy (Faith, Angel/us, Willow, Giles)
Angel: Angel (Cordelia (early seasons), Fred (later seasons), Wes (later seasons))
Merlin: Merlin (Arthur, Uther, Morgana, Gwen, Tom)
Lois and Clark: Clark (Lois, Jimmy)
Invisible Man: Darien (Bobby, Claire)
Lord of the Rings: Aragorn (Eowyn)
Pirates of the Caribbean: Will, Elizabeth (Jack)
X-men Movieverse: Wolverine (Rogue, Scott, Erik/Charles)
Vorkosigan-verse: Miles (Gregor, Alys Vorpatril)
The Pretender: Jarod, Miss Parker (Sydney, Broots)
Harry Potter: Sirius, (Harry, Remus Lupin, Hermione)
Hogan's Heroes: Hogan (Newkirk, Kinch)
Supernatural: Dean (Sam, John, Pam, with Ruby, Jo, Ellen and Bobby inconsistently on this list - when they work for me they really work, but when they don't they drive me up the wall.)
Doctor Who: The Doctor (5, 9, 10), Wilf (Donna, Martha, first-season Rose, Doctor-who-Jack)

Apart from proving that I am a complete TV-Fandom addict, this list shows a couple of interesting trends. Firstly, yes, overall, my primary 'fannish characters' tend to be male - 82% of them are guys (ouch!). Expand that selection slightly, to consider the runners up, and it evens out a little - 45% of the runners up are female, and overall is about 37%.

These figures made me feel pretty damn depressed, until I noticed a very definite trend in the results - the characters I feel most fannish about are consistently the main characters. Only one character on the primary list isn't the main character of the source (Sirius (HP) and in that case the main character is one of my runners up), and, conversely, very few main characters didn't make the primary list (Jack (POTC) and Sam, Teal'c and Cameron Mitchell from SG-1, all of whom were runners up). Likewise, with very few exceptions, my runners up tend to be significant supporting characters.

Looking at the list, an fandoms with clear demarcation of main/supporting characters, there does not appear to be any evidence of gender bias in my 'fannish character' preferences. However, the situation is slightly more complicated when looking at fandoms with both male and female main characters (it's hard to exactly define which shows fall definitively into this category - I'm counting Lois and Clark, SG-1, and The Pretender). In two of these cases, I prefer the (some of) the male leads to the female leads. But it's also noticeable that both these shows (SG-1 and L&C) had previously established (semi)canon which held the male characters as the main characters, and in both cases I was familar with the previous canon when watching the show. I suspect (although of course, can't prove) that this is a large part of this preference, especially since in each case, my fannishness for the female characters grew dramatically as canon progressed.

I guess this just officially proves something I've been subconsciously aware of for a long time - I'm unlikely to be fannishly involved with a show unless I love the main character/s, regardless of sex or gender. I know there are many people in fandom who can love and get fannishly involved with a source for the Wedge Antilles and Neville Longbottoms, but as much as I can appreciate the occasional minor-character-centric fics, it's the connection with the main character that pulls me towards fandom in the first place, and that motivates me to stay involved.

It does satisfy me that gender is subordinate to canon importance when determining which characters I prefer. For shows where the main character is female, my favourite character is female; for shows with females in the supporting cast, I am just as likely to feel fannish towards girls as guys, although consistently to a lesser degree than for the main characters; and even if a supporting character, male or female, hits my fannish-character-kinks liek whoa, it's very, very rare for them to displace the main character from my top fannish spot.

I'm curious if anyone else out there has such a strong correlation between main character/favourite character, or even a different one. What determines your favourite characters?

Vicarious life experiences FTW!

Date: 2009-02-01 12:02 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] lyore.livejournal.com
Interesting! Before I sat down and listed them, I would have said that I have two definite 'types': geeky scholars, and rebellious bad boys/girls (bonus points if they have a tragic past). And I still have these preferences, but it seems secondary to whether or not they are the main character or not. (Of course, this probably means I'm more likely to like a show where the main character has strong aspects of at least one of these types - it's a chicken-and-egg type thing, I suspect.)

I think my attitude to character inconsistency and 'canon OOCness' depends more on what I think of the show runners and writers - if I don't trust/like the writers, I'm more likely to blame them rather than the characters (hello, Stargate PTB).

On the other hand, the closer a character resembles me the more likely I am to comment on or even criticise their decisions, because I can see echoes of my own experiences and choices. I know this is especially an issue for me for female characters, and something I'm working on - not all female characters are intended as a commentary on my life choices!

I don't have the links on hand, but most of them were picked up by [community profile] metafandom - you should be able to find them under their femslash or gender tags. Happy reading!

Re: Vicarious life experiences FTW!

Date: 2009-02-01 05:46 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] with-apostrophe.livejournal.com
the closer a character resembles me the more likely I am to comment on or even criticise their decisions, because I can see echoes of my own experiences and choices.

This is fascinating, because after much thought a few years back I determined that something akin to this was the reason I didn't much like Elizabeth Weir from Stargate Atlantis. Of all the characters she was the one most like myself, and while I'm not really all that much like her, there was enough of what I idenitifed as "my" behaviour and attitudes in her to make it too much like looking in a mirror.

I'm a hell of a lot harder on female characters, but I celebrate all the more so when I do find female favourites. Vala, for example, in season 9-10 of SG-1 beats even Daniel (big crush there) in my favourites stakes.

Re: Vicarious life experiences FTW!

Date: 2009-02-02 06:05 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] lyore.livejournal.com
For me it tends to be Sam Carter, but yeah. A few too many similarities for me to divorce myself fully from her actions.

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