Wednesday Weekly Blogging Challenge: Overused Character Stereotypes

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Click here to read everyone else’s replies to this week’s question and here to see the full list of topics for the year.

While there are authors out there who can take the most well-worn character stereotypes and making something new and fresh with them, I still think these stereotypes should be given a long period of rest before being used again.

 

Two Brown wooden bunny figurines. One adult and one child. Dead Parents 

This is something I’ve seen most often in the Young Adult genre. Why must so many young protagonists have dead or dying parents?

It made more sense a century or two ago when it was more common for kids to lose one or both parents to diseases, illnesses, or accidents that modern medicine can now easily treat. These days, it is rare for a parent to die before their child reaches adulthood.

I would love to see more Young Adult books about kids whose parents are still alive and well.

 

A row of yellow smiley face people. There is one grey person among them who isn’t smiling, and the magnifying glass is focused on that person. Not Like Other Girls 

Once again, this is something I see a lot of in the Young Adult genre.  but it can be found in many other places, too. A character might say something like, “I’m not like other girls…I like sports!” or “I’m not like other girls…I hate makeup and fashion!”

I deeply dislike the idea that certain hobbies and interests are inherently better than other ones. It’s also ridiculous to me to perpetuate the idea that being a girl (or a member of any other group) means you must automatically enjoy X and be uninterested in Y.

Why not just let characters enjoy whatever appeals to them?

 

Sweaty female boxer looking ahead at the camera with annoyance as one hand is on her hip. The Dumb Athlete

I am an intelligent person who loves reading, learning about science and history, and visiting as many museums as I can find.

I am also an athletic person who loves lifting weights, going swimming, doing yoga, and taking long, brisk walks.

It irks me to see (some) writers assume someone must belong to just one of these groups or that there must always be animosity between them.

Let your football players also love math or poetry and your scientists run marathons in their free time without anyone batting at eye at it.

Characters should be just as well-rounded as any given person walking down the street in my opinion, and real people generally can’t be sorted into such constrictive little boxes about what they should or shouldn’t enjoy doing.

 

Two people wearing hoodies and facing a brown wall. One person has a black hoodie and one has a white hoodie. Ugly or Deformed Villains

I wish that villains were identified by their behaviour instead of by things like congenital defects or simply not being born beautiful. Some of the people I care about have health conditions that negatively affect their physical appearance. It bothers me to see how often disability and birth defects are used as shorthand for someone the audience should automatically mistrust.

No, this doesn’t mean I want every villain to start being described as the most beautiful or handsome person in the room either.

One’s physical appearance has nothing to do with their character or personality. Let’s stop relying on looks as an indicator of anything.

 

Community Spokesperson 

A prairie dog wearing a hat and holding a microphone. Okay, so this one might take a little bit of explaining.

I find it wearisome when a character who is black, gay, disabled, Buddhist, a woman, or <insert any other minority group here> is assumed to be the spokesperson for their entire community.

Just because I believe hiking is one of the best ways to pass an afternoon if you want to improve your emotional and physical health doesn’t mean that every other woman in the entire world feels the same way or wants me to speak for all 3.99 billion of us.

I like stories that allow their characters to have opinions on everything from the merits of Hawaiian pizza* to much more serious issues without requiring any of them to officially speak for whatever communities they are part of.

*It is delicious, for the record. 😉

8 Responses to Wednesday Weekly Blogging Challenge: Overused Character Stereotypes

  1. YES! Why do almost all of the YA novels have dead parents, or at least one dead parent? My daughter and I actually talked about that once and how uncommon it is in real life.

    And in reference to the Hawaiian pizza – yes, pineapple is a pizza topping.

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