Recently, as I was watching Princess Bride I was struck by how utterly useless Princess Buttercup was.
As I gave it some thought, I started to realize that I never really connected with the (predominantly, though not exclusively!) blonde princesses of yore, the blondes of Sweet Valley High, or the often-ephemeral waifs that Lurlene McDaniel wrote about.
All this being said, I’m not actually prejudice against blondes. I do not think that blondes require more saving. I do not believe that they have nothing more to worry about than their troubled man. And I do not (largely based on teen novels of the 80s & 90s) believe that blondes have more fun.
What I do believe is that there has been a shift in the perception of what, or who, now makes a heroine. The blonde haired blue-eyed heroine might just be a thing of the past.
Where the ideal used to be the ‘damsel in distress’ that archetype is no longer as appealing as it used to be. Sure there are still damsels, and what gal doesn’t love a good saving, the difference is, she’s just as capable of saving right back.
Take Out for Blood by Alyxandra Harvey for instance, Hunter, a vampire hunter, is caught in an argument between a (good) vampire and another vampire hunter, Hunter spits:
I can look after myself. If you guys want to do the macho knight-in-shining-armour thing, do it on your own time. And find yourself another damsel in distress, because I’m not her.
Hunter’s reaction is not one of bravado or misplaced sense of herself and her abilities.
She is a strong, smart, and resourceful woman who does not want two men treating her like a southern belle in a ball gown, a clear epithet of the new heroine.
The new heroine is still vulnerable; things still go bump in the night, and dark, foreboding stretches of road are still best travelled in the company of others. The new heroine does not necessarily eschew the concept of chivalry, provided that chivalry is well intentioned, genuine, and not stemming from a foolhardy self-sacrificial notion.
No longer a pure, chaste, and helpless creature the new heroine is a different incarnation altogether. She herself is often dark, brooding, and has just as much baggage as her dark and usually mysterious male (or female) counterpart. Even though the maidens of antiquity and the damsels of previous fiction eras were often fairly unassuming, had trials and tribulations to deal with, there habitually seems to be a distance between the reader and the character, as though they are a little too squeaky clean to be real.
The new heroines are more attainable, more relatable, and have more in common with our deep, dark, and realistic selves. Oddly enough, they also tend to be brunettes.
These are women worth looking up to, women worth emulating. These women with real issues to overcome (death, illness, abuse, addition, abandonment, betrayal, murderous villain) and do so through logic, humour, and effort working with their fictional counterparts to do so, not waiting placidly for their menfolk to solve their problems for them.
The new heroines tend to be resourceful, intelligent, and not the helpless lady trapped atop the highest tower. Also, unlike the previous fictional incarnation of themselves, they are ready to fight back.
Personally, I could do with more dark heroines in my life.
Examples of the New Heroine to Check out:
Hermione Granger (Harry Potter)
Faith (Buffy the Vampire Slayer)
Buffy too (yes, I KNOW she’s blonde)
Dr. Temperance Brennan (Bones)
Elizabeth Bennet (Pride and Prejudice)
Wonder Woman (DC Comics)
Lara Croft (Tomb Raider)
Katness Everdeen (Hunger Games)
Amy (Amy & Roger’s Epic Detour)
It takes a smart brunette to play a dumb blonde. ~Marilyn Monroe