Sometimes my mind gets highly analytical. I think it must come from my engineering background. But I’ve noticed, recently, that a lot of women characters are missing a husband, or a child, or both, as a way to make them sympathetic, to give them a tragic backstory.
And this annoys me, probably on two fronts: 1) as a wife/mother myself, I don’t like to think about such things, and 2) this is so common it seems like no one can think of anything else to give a female character any depth.
I think we’re all familiar with the concept of fridging, which is where a character, usually a woman, is killed, maimed, or otherwise hurt or devalued to advance a main character’s (often male) character development.
And this seems related–that a woman is often defined by her relationships to others. Now, we’re all defined by our relationships, to some extent, but it sometimes seems like a woman is reduced to the sum of hers, rather than being given her own personality.
So female leads are often described by their losses: a child or a husband, if old enough, or a parent or a “true love,” if younger. Rape is another common tragic backstory trope, and again, we are often shown her relationship to men, in this case, or sometimes even her rapist depending on the story.
Sometimes we see male characters defined by a relationship (Mel Gibson’s character in Lethal Weapon, for example) but this is less common.
What do you think, Squiders? Am I off the mark? Reading the wrong sort of books? Or does it feel like, to you, women have the same common characterizations, and they’re based off the people around her rather than herself?