Until Beauty and the Beast came out and Belle showed up on scene. She was a brunette! And, she liked books! And she wasn't afraid to fight for what she believed in. She became my childhood hero. I idolized her growing up because she was my match in so many ways. I do have to hand it to Disney for creating such a real character and having her triumph over the triplets (the stereotypical beauties fawning over the handsome guy). Not only does she present a more alluring picture as being the odd one out, but she doesn't hook up with Mr. Handsome. She chose the beast. The nine foot tall, furry, angry, cursed prince in a terrible fate.
Now, to my young brain and foundling heart, that story was a brilliant ray of light. It taught me that it was okay to be different, that princesses can come in any form, and that you can choose your prince based on some other factor than physical beauty. What an awesome set of lessons to teach a generation of girls!
Looking back on this moment of my life I am forced to realize something, a problem I have perpetuated: all my main characters are athletic women. Albeit in order to do what they do they kind of have to be, but that isn't the point. When I think of a strong woman, my brain automatically wraps her in a strong body. I have known many women who can take down a power lifter from a wheelchair with the strength of their minds and the wit of their words. But I don't write about them... yet.
Here's where the change comes in. I don't know if you've taken a good look at all those profile pictures of authors floating around the internet, but next time you click on a Tweet or Facebook status, look closely. You are staring at one of the most creative and dynamic types of humans to walk this earth. That mind, however it expresses itself, is a monumental force to be recond with. But, look at the face, the neck, the body if it is a full shot. Most authors, myself included, are NOT tall, thin, blonde, and top heavy. We are short, geeky, weird, usually a little pudgy (for reference, my picture was 20 pounds ago), and not runway model candidates. And we're okay with that, for the most part. So, why aren't we the heroines and heroes of our own stories?
Because society has painted a different picture of beautiful/tough/sporty/sexy/etc... And, whether we realize it or not, it has influenced the way we write. But, I am going to change that in my next novel. The story is another literary humor and the characters do not have to be yoga stars or warriors. So, they get to be real. They get to have those extra pounds they want to lose but can't, they get to eat pizza and drink beer without regret, they get to be alive.
Of course some of my other books won't be like that. The one I'm finishing now requires my main character to run through the forest and hunt mythological beings. Not an endeavor that supports a more leisurely lifestyle. But when physical fitness is not a requirement to their survival, my characters will have the freedom to be whatever shape bets suits them. From anorexic to morbidly obese, people come in all shapes and sizes. Our characters should as well.
What do you think? Do you think too much emphasis is put on body structure and image? Do you think more realistic bodies in literature will make it more enjoyable to read?