For the past several days, I’ve been re-watching Buffy the Vampire Slayer from the beginning. I’d forgotten how it was as much a wonderful ensemble cast and a story about how a hero needs friends, as it was about how alone Buffy was, even with those great friends around her. Her mother, her watcher, and her friends loved her, but they very rarely understood her, expecting her to deal with incredible burdens and still be the perfectly behaved daughter, the unwavering slayer, the understanding confidante. And to get her homework done.
I also had this idea in my mind of Buffy as the inspiration for so many of our kickass heroines in urban fantasy today, but in fact, she was quite different from many who came after. Buffy may have broken through a barrier for female characters by being the hero in the tale, but she was as flawed as any human being, and she got the crap beaten out of her all the time. She basically spent most of the time just holding her own against the never-ending tide of evil spewing out of the Hellmouth. Which is kind of what life feels like most of the time, isn't it?
I think what I’m liking most about her right now is how vulnerable and imperfect and misunderstood she is. I’m not sure Buffy’s legacy is urban fantasy heroines after all. Mostly, she’s a strong, believable female lead, which is something we still don’t see much of in Hollywood 16 years later. When we do see women in the role of “hero,” it’s often as a woman who acts like a man—or should I say, acts like a man is expected to act: tough, violent, and emotionless. I’d like to see more heroes, both male and female, with traditionally “feminine” traits, and less of either sex being hypermasculinized.
Wouldn't it be great to see a female 007, mixed with the Doctor, mixed with Sherlock Holmes, who uses her brain, her wit, and her compassion to defeat the forces of evil? Hmm. Maybe I’ll write one. But if I do, she’ll have to be marvelously flawed.
What kind of women would you like to see more of in urban fantasy? How about men?