This is the first of what I hope will be a weekly or at least bi-weekly feature on the blog where I just talk about fiction topics. I love discussing stuff, particularly in tv/literature so if you have your own ideas about whatever I'm discussing please feel free to comment! I'll be talking about random things from any news going on in the YA world, movie deals, what's hot now, issues in a certain book series, common themes in YA, and my favorite: trope discussion which will probably be the most common topic because there are a lot of tropes out there. In fact, I'm going to start off with a trope this week.
I'm not sure what this particular trope/common plot idea is called on the TV Tropes Site but I'm sure it's on there (it's a very useful site for writing btw, check it out if you haven't) but I call this particular trope: All Feminine Girls are Shallow Horrible People trope.
You've probably seen a lot of this before. The most recent example I can think of is Hush Hush and the character of Marcie. Marcie is basically the usual mean girl who naturally is girly. As far as Nora and her friend Vee are concerned she's a total bitch. Now yes, Marcie definitely has flaws but I can't help but notice that through out Hush Hush Nora and Vee are just as horrible to Marcie as she is to them. In fact I recall several scenes where Marcie tried to extend a olive branch to Nora but Nora basically said yeah right and the feud continued. But of course Nora is the heroine so it can't possibly be HER fault.
Then of course there's Twilight. You'll be seeing Twilight pop up in a lot of these trope discussions and I apologize Twihards but frankly Meyer brings it on herself because she basically used every unoriginal idea out there. In Twilight Bella has so-called human friends. But she takes the time to point out how shallow these girls are because they care about things like looks and guys and aren't at all deep like she is because she reads. All though Bella took how long to obsess over Edward? Even more fun is when you read Midnight Sun which is the same book from Edward's point of view. Seriously, and I thought Bella was judgemental. She doesn't hold a candle to Edward "I'm better than everyone here" Cullen.
Let us not forget as well the wonderful book of judgement that was Halo. Seriously, how many times did Bethany criticize Molly and her friends because they liked make-up and going to parties and gossiping? Seriously, I lost count after the first five times. I gather it gets worse in the other two books but I pretty much refused to continue no matter how much my morbid curiousity kind of wanted to just for kicks.
Basically this is a super common trope in YA. It is done in different ways. Sometimes it will just be the cheerleader being the stereotypical mean girl. Sometimes it'll just be several catty comments about girls who like to party/dress up/have the sheer nerve to care about what others think of them. A lot of times it won't be subtle. Don't know about anyone else but I dispise this trope. I find it rather judgemental.
So why does it exist? Well I think it's for two main reasons.
1) The writer thinks this will appeal to their main audience. There is this stereotype of the main YA reader: she's nerdy, she's probably not popular, she reads the genre for comfort etc. Now in the beginning stages of YA before Harry Potter/Twilight/Hunger Games this stereotype of the YA reader MAY have had some kernal of truth but I'm sorry this isn't the case anymore. YA has pretty much become mainstream fiction. EVERYONE reads it, not just nerdy teen girls. I know women in their forties who regularly read YA. Hell, my mother in her fifties has read Harry Potter. So I'm sorry but this stereotype of the YA reader is simply just not true anymore and therefore this trope frankly won't appeal to everyone.
2) The writer thinks this will make their main character look better in the eyes of the reader. Going back to that whole stereotypical idea of who the main readers of YA are. Again, not true and again, won't appeal to everyone. Also I fail to see how not being girly makes one character better then the other.
So writers, please don't do this. I can think of much better ways of getting me to not like a character such as them doing crappy things to actually deserve my dislike. Sorry but I don't think them liking things like make-up/dressing up/being girly really deserves my dislike. You're also furthering the idea that girls who are feminine are horrible and frankly I find that horrible.
Great Examples of Books that DON'T do this annoying trope:
Unspoken/Demon's Lexicon by Sarah Rees Brennan (Holly is the best character and she was popular)
Gallagher Girls series by Ally Carter (the girls actually disarm something once in ball gowns)
Tortall series by Tamora Pierce (Alanna likes dressing up and doesn't give a damn who knows)
Paranormalcy trilogy by Kierstan White (Evie loves pink and totally bedazzles her tazer)
Pretty much all the Meg Cabot books (Lana's turnaround in Princess Diaries was a particularly wonderful middle finger to this trope)
Ghost and the Goth trilogy by Stacey Kade (Alona is possibly the best deconstruction of the popular girl that I've ever seen)
Mortal Instruments by Cassandra Clare (Isobel is girly and badass)
Anna Dressed in Blood by Kendare Blake (Carmel is awesome and ;gasp; popular)
Caster Chronicles by Kami Garcia and Margeret Stohl (Ridley is the best in this. Yes, there is some shade thrown in the popular girls crowd way but that has more to do with their horrible attitude towards anything different and less to do with them being girly)