Just the Reverse

      Today, Camela and I went to go see the new Tarzan movie.  We both knew it wasn't going to be Oscar worthy, and that it would probably be guilty of several White-Male-as-Hero tropes.  But let's be perfectly honest: we went to go watch it for the scenery.  The lovely, lovely Scandinavian scenery.  And the movie delivered.

      But, first Camela and I had to resign ourselves to the inevitable damsel-in-distress plot.  Not that there isn't a place for such stories, it's just...well...there's a LOT of them.  This Tarzan wasn't as bad as it could have been; Jane came across as a competent and intelligent woman, with a great deal of courage.  But she was captured by the greedy villain (I'm sorry if this is a spoiler, but really, did you expect anything else?), and she did depend on him to save her.  It is - with ironic apologies to Disney - a tale as old as time.
      There are some classic tales in which a male is rescued by a female.  The two with which I am most familiar would be the old Scottish ballad of Tam Lin, and the immortal Hans Christian Anderson fairy tale of The Snow Queen.  As a child, I didn't care for either one of them, because they didn't seem romantic enough.  Now I love them, for the way they are written and the stories they tell.  My ideas about romance have changed as I have matured.  But I wish I had been exposed to a broader range of it as a child.*
A gorgeous illustration of the Ballad of Tam Lin by the talented artist Wylie Beckert.  There is a lot of symbolism in this tale, and how Janet holds on through Tam Lin's many transformations.
      You may have read some of my previous blog entries where I discuss this trick for writers to test their stories for "isms": mentally swap the genders/ethnicities/sexual orientations of their characters, and see how the story changes.  Sometimes we intentionally make our characters minorities to further a deeper meaning in our tales.  Sometimes, however, we're just lazy.  This is a good way to keep us accountable.
      So it's interesting to re-cast the movie I just watched with the genders swapped.  Consider: a badass wild girl falls for a scholarly boy, rescues him from danger over and over, and is finally persuaded to return to civilization.  Now her beloved is abducted as a way to trap her, and she kicks major ass (losing clothing along the way) across half a continent to get him back.**
Ok, that sounded absurd in my head, but now that I've written it out, I'm going, "Holy crap!  I would LOVE to read that!"
      Got your head wrapped around that one?  Right, now have it take place with the heroine and her love object as African, saving a continent of tribal white people.  Now add in the black female aristocratic villain.
      Now try keeping Tarzan a male, and turn Jane into John.
      It's a whole new story, right?  And one which evokes different feelings--and may appeal to a different audience.  Which tells us a lot about what we expect from the stories of real life.

And now, just for shits and giggles, you can take this pointless online quiz to figure out your Amazon Warrior Name.  I'd like to say that mine was bad-ass, but it actually meant "Shaggy Goat Skin."  I hope you have better luck than I.

*Not that there was much of a range to expose me to.  Yes that sentence is grammatically incorrect, but my point stands.

**For a split second, I thought I had just described the plot to Princess Mononoke, but then I realized I hadn't.  The guy ends up saving everybody in end, really.  Although it's still a bloody fabulous movie.


  1. PLEASE write the warrior wife story. I would love to read it, too. And if you don't want to, I'll take a run at it :)

    1. Sure! Right after I finish my current trilogy! And then the zombie western I've been working on. And then the ghost story we're supposed to be collaborating on. And then the faerie land novel we discussed. And then the gothic urban fantasy I've been wanting to write....


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