Sunday, May 3, 2015

Intergalactic Expo’s Panel on Female Characters in the Whedonverse

West Sacramento's Intergalactic Expo promotion poster with images of "Doctor Who" Tartus, "Star Trek" Enterprise and "Star Wars" characters.
Photo Credit: West Sacramento's May the Fourth Be With You

I hate to say this, but I’m going to have to put off the article on older sci fi another week. It’s been a very long, insane Saturday and so I didn’t have time to finishthe article. But I did say last week that I would talk a little about Intergalactic Expo and so since I won’t be sharing the article at this time, I’ll talk more about Intergalactic Expo even though there’s not much more I can talk about than originally anticipated. That’s because I arrived there way later than intended. I meant to arrive there by 3 PM at the latest but all because the bus driver did not stop at the stop we were waiting at in downtown Sacramento, my cousin and I had to walk more than three miles from there to the West Sacramento Civic Center where the con was held and so we didn’t get their until 4! That’s the problem with the bus system in Sacramento: compared to many other metropolitans in the nation, it is not reliable.

When I got there, I was so rushed to see certain things such as the next panel which was an interesting one on female characters in Josh Whedon’s TV shows and movies, that I forgot to take pictures for tonight’s post. (Sorry about that, people. I’ll have some for next time though, since the con continues through tomorrow.) The two panelists, both women, had some really good insights and intelligent things to say about strong female characters such as Buffy from Buffy the Vampire Slayer, the Black Widow from Marvel’s Avenger movies, and River from Firefly. I’m not a Buffy fan so I wasn’t familiar with most of the Buffy characters they went over but I still found the characters to be interesting.

So the panelists mostly talked about the roundedness of these characters in terms of the multiple archetypes that make them up which breaks the stereotype of so many past female characters that are often based on one archetype such as the seductress, the chaste virgin, or the passive sidekick or lover. They talked about how the characters are often a combination of these and other archetypes, different archetypes playing out at different times. For example, Buffy may be the heroic leader at one point, but then the nourishing mother figure at another, or River the insightful mystic type at one point, the child type at another point and the helpless victim at another.

Then the subject came up of why it’s so difficult for most male sci fi/fantasy authors to write strong, distinctive female characters. One reason is because there’s very few (though this is changing at a rapid pace) female speculative fiction authors and so most male authors don’t get the feel for strong female characters because they’ve mostly read male authors’ works all their lives. One of the few exceptions (besides Whedon), according to the panelists, is Neil Gaiman. In which I partly agree, but most of his protagonists tend to be male. However, the few female protagonists in his stories as well as the more secondary female characters tend to be well rounded.

This got me thinking about how I need to reconsider my own female characters in my fiction, even if most of them are secondary or minor. Even if the female character is not the main one, she should reflect a distinctness that breaks the stereotype. To throw a female character into the story just to support the plot, yet that character has no distinctive or realistic traits, makes the character flat and look too much like a mere cog in the machine called plot. After all, one of the best ways to make a story believable is by making the characters believable, and this also goes for the minor or secondary characters even if it’s to a smaller degree proportionate to their roles.

I’ll be attending more panels and activities at Intergalactic Expo tomorrow and so will give you more highlights (along with the article on “outdated” sci fi) next week with photos. If you’re in the area then you might want to take a look at the con’s website and consider dropping by tomorrow. It’s only $10 dollars to get in and a portion of the proceeds goes to a good cause (the Make-A-Wish foundation).

Until next time . . . 


  1. Thanks for the shout out, Steven, and thanks for coming!

  2. Thank you for the lovely review and for promoting Intergalactic Expo!