lyore: (Default)
[personal profile] lyore
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?

Date: 2009-02-02 07:26 am (UTC)
mf_luder_xf: (XF GA&DD)
From: [personal profile] mf_luder_xf
I believe I ten to be very similar to you. Really, the main character and finding traits about them I like rises above gender. That being said, the vast majority of my favorite characters tend to be male. I'm not sure if this is because of the type of shows I watch (leading toward male-dominated casts) or because of my interest in the male POV. It may run along similar lengths as my reason for liking slash fic. I like two males in a relationship because its a) less typical, b) more conflict, c) it's harder and therefore more interesting. I really like characters like Mulder and Krycek together not only because them being them (Gman vs triple-timing assassin) but because there's already a natural clash of them being two grown men who aren't going to cry over every little thing. I find it more realistic and infinitely more fascinating. I also tend to prefer the bad guy which are typically males. (I tend to hate the female villains, though it could be debated that's because I'm supposed to hate them.)

Here's my own little list.

X-Files: Mulder, Krycek (Scully, Cancer Man)
Supernatural: Dean, Sam, Bobby (Ruby, Ellen, John Winchester)
SG-1: Jack, Ba'al, Vala (Daniel, Barrett, Major Davis, Sam, Cam, Hammond (and do Lorne and McKay count for their all of 1-3 episodes?))
SGA: McKay, Sheppard (Lorne, Keller, Carter, Vega, Teyla, Ronon)
Kyle XY: Kyle, Declan
The West Wing: Josh, CJ, Bartlett, Donna (Toby, Sam)
Smallville: Lex, Oliver, Chloe
Dark Angel: Logan, Max, Alec
NCIS: Gibbs, Ziva, DiNozzo (Abby, McGee)
Heroes: Nathan, Peter (HRG, Hiro)
Battlestar Galactica: 6, 3, Admiral Adama, Starbuck (Roslin, Helo)
24: Jack, Chloe
Fringe: Olivia, Peter (Walter Bishop, Charlie)
Firefly: Mal, Simon, River (Jane, Inara)
Farscape: Aeryn
Torchwood: Ianto, Jack

In the top, 29 of 41 are males. Well over 50%. But then look at subject matter first. 13 of 16 are somehow paranormal/sci-fi/fantasy shows. Take then SG-1 and SGA. I doubt anyone would despute SG1's "main" cast as: Jack, Daniel, Sam, Teal'c, Vala, Cam. SGA's main cast: Sheppard, McKay, Teyla, Ronon, Weir (and arguably Carson, Carter, Keller, and Woolsey). 4 of 6 in SG1 are male. 3 of 5 in SGA. 5 of 9 if you count those in (). In smaller main casts, XF and Fringe have 1 and 1 (possible two males and one female counting Walter Bishop as a main character). Supernatural has two male leads. 24 has one male lead. The odds are far higher for me to like a male lead than a female...simply because there are more of them. And about 32 of 41 are main characters. A correlation definitely.

At the same time, I really think it is the character themselves that stand out. I tend to like the funny and/or treacherous characters. Funny being Jack (SG1), McKay, Dean, DiNozzo, Mal, Josh, CJ, Bobby, Ziva. Treacherous being Krycek, Aeryn, Alec, 6, 3, Lex, Vala, Ba'al. Add in those who are emotional handicapped (Sheppard, Logan, Max, Jack, Nathan) and/or villians (several mentioned already) and the list adds up. And it just seems to typically be male characters who fit these descriptions.

It entends into my non-fandom reading and TV/movie watching too. So it doesn't surprise me. Give me a really good female character who fits these and I will LOVE her (Vala, Aeryn, Ziva).

Date: 2009-02-02 01:07 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
I can't speak to slash, since I don't tend to read a lot of it (for no particular reason, except that I tend to watch shows with 'gen goggles', and it takes a lot of on-screen slashiness for me to spot it). Regardless, I think taking two non-traditional characters (of whatever sex) and exaiming their relationship can lead to some of the most interesting stories.

The greater availability of male characters definitely skews the results, especially if you (like me) have a strong tendency towards main characters. I think things are improving, though.

(I'm curious - do you really think of Aeryn as treacherous? In that she betrayed the peacekeepers (sorta) or something else?)


lyore: (Default)

March 2009

891011 121314

Most Popular Tags

Page Summary

Style Credit

Expand Cut Tags

No cut tags
Page generated Oct. 24th, 2017 03:00 am
Powered by Dreamwidth Studios