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Old 02-02-2013, 11:53 AM   #1
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What Is It About Dead Girls?

This thread is mostly inspired by one maybegenius started a few weeks ago.

I don't know if it's weird to read through things you wrote years ago at 1:00AM in the morning, but I am that person.

I really need to stop killing girls. I don't know what it is about shoving girls into refrigerators, but there are just so many ways to do it and it always inspires this epic man angst that's just so easy for me to write. I'm actually looking through my stuff right now, and I'd say it's actually pretty hard to find a living, breathing, non-DSM, hasn't miscarried or had an abortion, female.

From here on out, I forbid myself from killing another female love interest (and literally having them turn up in garbage bags on their front lawns for their love interests to discover *cringes slightly*). Also, abortions. I forbid myself from including another abortion or miscarriage in my work for a long, long time. But that is for another thread.

What is it about dead girls—they don't even have to be love interests, Saving June comes to mind—that is so much more "poetic" and angst inspiring than dead boys? Everywhere I look I see dead girls, suicidal girls, missing girls, but hardly any dead guys or suicidal guys with epic girl angst over their dead brother/lover.

It's almost disturbing to me, seeing the trend in my own writing. Especially not knowing why it's there. I give you full permission to psychoanalyze me. I suppose the first step to getting over a problem is admitting you have one and I'd really like to move on from the dead/suicidal girl trope in my writing. I'm very much over it. I just can't stop writing about it, regardless of whether I'm writing male/female POV.
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Old 02-02-2013, 12:06 PM   #2
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I really need to stop killing girls. I don't know what it is about shoving girls into refrigerators, but there are just so many ways to do it and it always inspires this epic man angst that's just so easy for me to write. I'm actually looking through my stuff right now, and I'd say it's actually pretty hard to find a living, breathing, non-DSM, hasn't miscarried or had an abortion, female.

Man...it's way too late, and I've been out of coffee for too long. I just read most of this in entirely the wrong way.
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Old 02-02-2013, 12:19 PM   #3
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What is it about dead girls—they don't even have to be love interests, Saving June comes to mind—that is so much more "poetic" and angst inspiring than dead boys? Everywhere I look I see dead girls, suicidal girls, missing girls, but hardly any dead guys or suicidal guys with epic girl angst over their dead brother/lover.
These things always work best when the dead person is beautiful, innocent, and too perfect for this world.

It's possible to have a male character that matches those things, but dark and brooding seems more popular for male characters these days.

Thus, those qualities are most often given to female characters.

For an interesting male example, see the end of Neon Genesis Evangelion, wherein the male main character's epic angst is caused by a dead boy — a boy he had to kill in fact.

Incidentally, I've always wondered if it counts as "fridging" a character if she continues to appear in the story even after she's — for all practical purposes — gone. (E.g., extensive flashbacks, dream sequences, or assorted fantastical phenomena.)
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Old 02-02-2013, 05:10 PM   #4
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Modern societies typically portray women in the media as victims (likely because a lot of horrendous crime is committed against women), so if you're writing about them being killed, look at the kind of stories that are around and influencing you directly or indirectly.

For example: criminal procedure programmes are incredibly popular on television and a lot of them show horrible, gruesome violence towards women that viewers probably don't think twice about - we're so desensitised to this kind of thing the horror of the reality would never occur to us.

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Incidentally, I've always wondered if it counts as "fridging" a character if she continues to appear in the story even after she's — for all practical purposes — gone. (E.g., extensive flashbacks, dream sequences, or assorted fantastical phenomena.)
Yes ... and maybe? The term is used to describe a female death/depowerment whose sole purpose is a plot device for a male character. If a ghost/flashback serves as more fodder for the male character's story, the female is undoubtedly fridged. "Maybe" it's not a 100% refrigeration if her story is expanded upon in the revisits.
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Old 02-02-2013, 05:39 PM   #5
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I don't like the dead girl culture in YA, however, the culture isn't anything new in the literary world. Most of Edgar Allen Poe's work is a perfect example. Our society is fascinated by the deaths of young beautiful girls. Okay, let me correct that. Young, beautiful white girls. I made a thread a few months back about book covers. I went the bookstore and walked to the YA aisle and all I saw was a sea of pretty, beautiful pale-skinned white girls in convincingly dead poses looking back at me.

That's just the book covers alone. The plot inside a lot of YA books nowadays seems to mimic the same values. I'll admit, I have a tendency of killing female characters over male ones. Why? I have no idea. Maybe I have a-little-more-than-healthy sense of morbid sexism.

For centuries, a man's death is dripping in masculinity. He dies a hero. He dies a warrior. He dies for a purpose. But a woman's death always seems to revolve around elegance, fragility, timelessness, and perfection. Even when a man is a victim, he is portrayed as not being one ... just a tragic death of a man. When a woman is a victim, we as a society go all out to show everyone else why she is a victim.

When a man is killed, everyone kind of shrugs it off. However, when a woman is killed, everyone goes into a frenzy. Who would dare kill a fragile, innocent woman?
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Old 02-02-2013, 05:44 PM   #6
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What is it about dead girls—they don't even have to be love interests, Saving June comes to mind—that is so much more "poetic" and angst inspiring than dead boys?
IMO, it comes from the way society infantilizes women. Women are seen as helpless, like children, and it inspires our natural protective instincts.

It is, of course, incredibly sexist.
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Old 02-02-2013, 06:09 PM   #7
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IMO, it comes from the way society infantilizes women. Women are seen as helpless, like children, and it inspires our natural protective instincts.

It is, of course, incredibly sexist.
It might also be an evolutionary thing. A group of animals can continue to propagate with a single male and several females, but not the other way around. Thus, males are more "dispensable." By that logic, it's more cruel and sad to kill a female than to kill a male.

That, and in fiction, beautiful dead women become a romantic enigma--something that's momentarily there, then out of your grasp.

There is also the fact that death takes the flawed, awkward humanity out of them, making them "beautiful" in a more pure way. It's easier to idealize a woman when her personality and flaws have all been wiped out of her. And in some ways, especially if the man doesn't know her very well, she becomes a thing of mystery. Who was she? What was her life like?
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Old 02-02-2013, 06:16 PM   #8
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It might also be an evolutionary thing. A group of animals can continue to propagate with a single male and several females, but not the other way around. Thus, males are more "dispensable." By that logic, it's more cruel and sad to kill a female than to kill a male.
Oh gawd, evpsych.
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Old 02-02-2013, 07:04 PM   #9
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These things always work best when the dead person is beautiful, innocent, and too perfect for this world.
Like Ophelia James Dean.

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Incidentally, I've always wondered if it counts as "fridging" a character if she continues to appear in the story even after she's — for all practical purposes — gone. (E.g., extensive flashbacks, dream sequences, or assorted fantastical phenomena.)
There's an interesting version of this in HOLD ME CLOSER, NECROMANCER, where a female friend of the male MC is decapitated and her head is sent to him, reanimated. She spends the rest of the book as a talking head. The MC has a lot of angst, but the girl actually deals with it pretty well.

Also, PLEASE IGNORE VERA DIETZ has some interesting girl angst over a dead boy.
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Old 02-02-2013, 07:09 PM   #10
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I write dead girls too. I can't really help it. But they don't inspire anything in male characters. Actually the male characters are the ones who do the killing.

But I only have one dead girl who stays dead and she definitely inspires my female protagonist to do awesome things (another type of sexism is that I feel like male-female relationships can't be written as strongly as same sex friendships. Brotherhood and sisterhood and all that jazz).

I have one dead girl who literally does about 15 times in the novel.

And two dead girls who are protagonists and narrating from some post-death state. I actually asked myself why I like dead girls just last night. I think I like dead things and write female MC's and that leads to dead girls.

Related: I also write missing/abducted kids lot. And they can be male or female.

What I've gathered from typing this is that I watched too much SVU during my formative years.
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Old 02-02-2013, 07:13 PM   #11
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I was just pissy about this very thing last night when Kevin Bacon's new TV show had a scene with one or more dead girls scattered about the apartment, one of them pinned to the wall, eyeballs cut out, and yet she still looked so lovely. Aaaargh!

I've noticed in movies and book covers the girl is almost always wearing something sexy, or nothing at all, and even though she's just died a horrible violent death, her skin is flawlessly pink (cause yes, they're always white girls) and any bruises will be on the arms or maybe the chin, but there won't be any swelling of the face even though she's just been bludgeoned to death. Most TV girls die with their mouths closed or just barely open, no gaping mouths with blood and spit coming out, never any vomit. No blue or mottled skin. The eyes still sparkle though they look off into the distance. Why, it's almost as if these pretty young dead things are meant to be sexualized. But no, surely that's not true.

Anyway, I did kill a female character once, which her sisters avenged, but usually I just kill parents, which is another thing we do a lot of in YA.
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Old 02-02-2013, 07:31 PM   #12
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The only reason I have dead girls in my book is because the military of the future has a 50/50 gender split and so, 50% of the time someone gets shot, blown up or stabbed, it's a girl.

Now, to everyone who is writing dead women to inspire righteous male fureh...

Could...you...please, PLEASE stop?
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Old 02-02-2013, 08:34 PM   #13
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Thanks for your replies, everyone.

At first, I was all prepared to blame everything on John Green and Sweet November (it was the first MPDG/tragic death movie I saw and it was a lot better when I was seven compared to sixteen and it's kind of creeped me out ever since), but as I think even harder, it's not even Alaska-esque manic pixies I write that die. It's the Yellow Wallpaper. And the Bell Jar. And Girl, Interrupted. And this. Yet, somehow, I've started mixing that trope with the MPDG thing by telling the tale of female mental illness/death through a guy.

As I was reading through my old stuff, I saw I actually had one MS in which it was the boy who had "issues." Then I realized those issues were spawned from his mother who may or may not have killed herself. So I will give myself a C- for effort on that one. And a C+ on one where the mother's suicide attempt (well, overdose) is told from the daughter's POV.
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Man...it's way too late, and I've been out of coffee for too long. I just read most of this in entirely the wrong way.
I might have written it sounding entirely wrong. But to sooth your anxiety, I have not killed any "living" girls.
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Incidentally, I've always wondered if it counts as "fridging" a character if she continues to appear in the story even after she's — for all practical purposes — gone. (E.g., extensive flashbacks, dream sequences, or assorted fantastical phenomena.)
I don't know. I've never gotten specifically what will make something fridging vs not fridging besides the obvious comic book examples. Like if she dies at the climax of the story and actually became a character yet her death still moves the plot forward, vs if she dies in the beginning and her death is used to move the plot of the entire book.
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Modern societies typically portray women in the media as victims (likely because a lot of horrendous crime is committed against women), so if you're writing about them being killed, look at the kind of stories that are around and influencing you directly or indirectly.

For example: criminal procedure programmes are incredibly popular on television and a lot of them show horrible, gruesome violence towards women that viewers probably don't think twice about - we're so desensitised to this kind of thing the horror of the reality would never occur to us.
I did grow up on Homicide and L&O. I had not taken desensitization into account.
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I don't like the dead girl culture in YA, however, the culture isn't anything new in the literary world. Most of Edgar Allen Poe's work is a perfect example. Our society is fascinated by the deaths of young beautiful girls. Okay, let me correct that. Young, beautiful white girls. I made a thread a few months back about book covers. I went the bookstore and walked to the YA aisle and all I saw was a sea of pretty, beautiful pale-skinned white girls in convincingly dead poses looking back at me.
Is it wrong to say I'm an equal opportunity killer? I think I've only killed one pretty, beautiful pale-skinned white girl. In a car accident. So, her death was probably the least gruesome I've written. But she was a lesbian. I wonder if that gives me points or takes them away.
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When a man is killed, everyone kind of shrugs it off. However, when a woman is killed, everyone goes into a frenzy. Who would dare kill a fragile, innocent woman?
That does kind of remind me of Ghost, for some reason. Would also be too much to say that most of the male deaths I remember seeing or reading about are sacrifices for someone (usually a woman)?
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I write dead girls too. I can't really help it. But they don't inspire anything in male characters. Actually the male characters are the ones who do the killing.
Maybe inspire was the wrong word.
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And two dead girls who are protagonists and narrating from some post-death state. I actually asked myself why I like dead girls just last night. I think I like dead things and write female MC's and that leads to dead girls.
I think I just like gruesome topics, period. When I was younger, I would primarily write from female POV and then all the dudes would die tragically or (this was spec fic). Then I started trying out male POV. And the same tropes are still there. The story is just told from the dude's perspective. Perhaps that is my problem. It's what I didn't like about The Help. Telling someone else's story from the outsiders perspective.
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Related: I also write missing/abducted kids lot. And they can be male or female.
That's not a trope I need to adopt.
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The only reason I have dead girls in my book is because the military of the future has a 50/50 gender split and so, 50% of the time someone gets shot, blown up or stabbed, it's a girl.

Now, to everyone who is writing dead women to inspire righteous male fureh...

Could...you...please, PLEASE stop?
I will try.

I might have actually figured out the root of this problem. My spec fic is almost 95% female POV with tragic male deaths (unless it's women dying in childbirth, but that only happens once). Yet, my contemporary YA, conversely, is almost 95% male POV with tragic female death. Though, it's not necessarily idealization of the perfect female because those females are anything but perfect and mysterious with typically, pretty dirty deaths.

I think I will take these three things:
Quote:
That, and in fiction, beautiful dead women become a romantic enigma--something that's momentarily there, then out of your grasp.
Quote:
It's possible to have a male character that matches those things, but dark and brooding seems more popular for male characters these days.
Quote:
IMO, it comes from the way society infantilizes women. Women are seen as helpless, like children, and it inspires our natural protective instincts.
And I will try to invert these tropes. It is (hopefully) mostly modern societal influences because it's only ever a problem with my contemporary YA. My AF, Spec Fic, and screenplays have never been plagued with that problem, odd enough. They have... other problems.
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Old 02-02-2013, 08:50 PM   #14
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The reason I can't invert the trope is because I can't conceptualize a male death as tragic as a female death. I'm totally aware of why, but it's like a mental block. I keep thinking "not sad enough" and then when it turns into a girl, it's suddenly very tragic.
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Old 02-02-2013, 09:08 PM   #15
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The reason I can't invert the trope is because I can't conceptualize a male death as tragic as a female death. I'm totally aware of why, but it's like a mental block. I keep thinking "not sad enough" and then when it turns into a girl, it's suddenly very tragic.
That is one of those odd things.

Probably the reason why manic pixie dream boys aren't all that popular, either.

One thing I've noticed, though, is that when I give the girl traditionally male traits, it's easier to make the guy's death super sad and tragic. It's something about traditional female traits, IMO, that makes it harder to get the female to be super angsty and broody if her guy dies. I mean, if Looking for Alaska was written from Alaska's POV and Miles died or Chip died, I can hardly imagine, which is rather sad, the big outpour of emotion. Though, yet again, we have The Fault in Our Stars which almost inverses that trope. I'm wondering if it's wrong to wonder if the book would've been sadder if the roles had been reversed. I'd almost say not. Before I Die was sadder, IMO, but only because it was better written.

Vera Dietz, mentioned above, does try to make Charlie's death sad and tragic, but it never really reached the epic sadness level of Alaska's death. Though, then I look at Legend of Aang, the end of season 2 and that's one place I've seen fan fic writers completely exploit tragic male death. Though the female was in the position the male is usually given, even if, conversely, his death was meant to be a sacrifice, though it failed and she had to save him from his sacrifice for her. And that series is really complicated with its female/male roles, anyway.

It's even with Vampire Academy, Lissa is given the more traditional female traits so she seems more vulnerable and everything bad that happens to Rose is twice as bad when it happens to her.

I realize that doesn't even take into account female/female male/male epic deaths, but I feel like that's a completely different discussion.
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Old 02-02-2013, 10:32 PM   #16
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I very much dislike the whole lady-in-the-fridge as a plot device to spur male characters to action. However, I think it's important to recognize that just killing women or making them victims in books isn't inherently wrong. Violence against women is a huge, huge problem, and I think it's an extremely valid theme to explore in writing.
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Old 02-02-2013, 10:32 PM   #17
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This is a very interesting topic that I haven't given much attention to in YA reading at all, although I've looked at it for certain tv shows or directors.

Then I went and looked at my own stuff. Haha, I like killing off boys. I have one dead girl, beyond a serial-killer situation that included both sexes, and she died at the exact same time as a guy (in fact, the guy was the victim and she was collateral damage), and even that got edited out later. All my ghost characters are male, all my major deaths are male. And I love killing major or main characters
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Old 02-02-2013, 10:40 PM   #18
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Out of curiosity, do you feel like your dead girls show a negative portrayal of girls other than that you have plenty of them? It isn't inherently wrong to kill girls off - for me it's only problematic if it exists solely to further a male storyline* (though if it furthers hers at the same time, then it's not a problem) or is just there to excite the audience because seeing a vulnerable woman take a beating or hurt herself is sexy (to a lot of people for whatever reason).


*Even this can be done well, though. Hard to say what the features of "well" are, but if a woman of substance, who is a real fleshed-out character, dies and it impacts a man in a way beyond must-get-revenge-and-I-have-a-reason-to-hate-my-one-true-enemy-even-more-now then it's maybe less problematic? That's my personal take, though - I do think there is a disproportionately high amount of fetishised violence against women/female death compared to male in books/film/television, but I certainly don't think all of it exists to titillate the audience or tell a story about a great man.
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Old 02-02-2013, 10:48 PM   #19
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Yes, it's interesting to think that dead girls are more romanticized than dead boys, even in a genre that is dominated by female readers, writers, and main characters.
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Old 02-02-2013, 11:36 PM   #20
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I am going to have to revisit this thread when I have more time to write a real, drawn-out response, but I am really enjoying the discussion so far!

My first instinct is always that we're so conditioned by media and society to care more about what men think and feel that it's just assumed to be more "interesting" to see how he reacts to tragedy. Women are SUPPOSED to be emotional basketcases, so of course death upsets their *delicate feelings*. But for man's SUPERMANLY exterior to crack and show true anguish is just ~so much more powerful~ because it means something is *truly upsetting*.

Or something. More thoughts later!
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Old 02-02-2013, 11:56 PM   #21
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You are not alone. "The death of a beautiful woman is, unquestionably, the most poetical topic in the world." Said by Edgar Allan Poe.
I tend to fridge beautiful, angelic, too-lovely-for-this-world boys, though. I don't think it's any better. xD It seems to have the same roots, too--the appeal of high tragedy and a morbid sort of romanticism. It's about distance and mystery more than any depowerment. If anything, it makes them more powerful--a living, flawed person can't rival a perfect dead lover.
So the girl heroine gets to be all broody and angsty and go down fighting, and it usually ends with a Together in Death type of happy ending.

I don't foresee myself starting a dead boy YA trend any time soon, though.
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Old 02-03-2013, 12:02 AM   #22
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Yes, it's interesting to think that dead girls are more romanticized than dead boys, even in a genre that is dominated by female readers, writers, and main characters.
Maybe it's because (and I admit this is probably a stretch) we like to imagine that our partners would completely fall apart without us? That's a little fantasy of mine, that my husband couldn't survive if I died.
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Old 02-03-2013, 12:27 AM   #23
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I am going to have to revisit this thread when I have more time to write a real, drawn-out response, but I am really enjoying the discussion so far!

My first instinct is always that we're so conditioned by media and society to care more about what men think and feel that it's just assumed to be more "interesting" to see how he reacts to tragedy. Women are SUPPOSED to be emotional basketcases, so of course death upsets their *delicate feelings*. But for man's SUPERMANLY exterior to crack and show true anguish is just ~so much more powerful~ because it means something is *truly upsetting*.

Or something. More thoughts later!
Yes, this.

I also haaaate this trope. It's why my WIP which I have kept up rewriting and editing for an amazingly long time for me always keeps me motivated. It's about a female killer who kills her boyfriends, and gets away with it for a long time, frequently because of the lack of publicity that these "disappearances" get. And she meets a guy who targets stereotypical pretty white girls, and that's where her trouble starts.

So, first things first: violence against women is unfortunately more common. That's partly it.

Secondly: I grew up on SVU. 99% of those cases revolve around raped, mutilated, tortured, murdered women.

We like to see women suffer. And I wonder...is this because they're pretty women? Notice that most of the time when a girl dies in YA fiction (even when she's not murdered), she is at least pretty or striking. She's frequently gorgeous, stunning, the main character could never live up to her.

We are used to broken girls, as well. I blame John Green for the extreme spate of Pretty Girls Dying As Motivation, but this goes all the way back to Phaedra in Hippolytus or Ophelia in Hamlet. Also something of note: all the Ophelias I've ever seen on stage (in pictures) are pretty, and their madness is infantilised. Wide eyes, long flowing hair, little-girl voice. You feel bad for this poor beautiful girl.

We are used to seeing women as weaker. Therefore, it's totally understandable that women would "lose her dignity/power" by being raped/murdered. Men, on the other hand, are strong. They're fighters. Case in point: The Mermaids Singing, a very much not-YA crime novel. It's about men being murdered, and it really fucking disturbed me. And I'm willing to admit that it probably wouldn't have disturbed me half as much if they'd been women.

You'd think that YA, as a female-dominated market, could challenge these stereotypes but some things are just inbuilt. (Also John Green and the rise of the manic pixie dream girl - he's probably the most successful contemp YA authors of the last 10 years.) Girls are just as exposed to mass market and they get used to what to expect. Women, get raped. Get murdered. That's what happens to women. Men, fight back. Stand up for yourself, don't be such a pussy etc.

Beauty is an aesthetic delight, of course. Eerybody likes to see pretty people. Even if it's in your head. Look at our own YA thread on whether you see your characters as attractive. Even if a character is described as ugly, you're still likely to see them sanitised.

The majority of our popular culture is dominated by men and male expectations (chick lit being one of the few examples I can think of, and look at the reputation that has). The majority of dudes have a hero fantasy. This isn't to call them sexist; it's not that different from girls who want a totally hot mysterious boy who becomes instantly infatuated. Guys are attracted to pretty girls whose lives revolve around them and frequently depend on them, hence the Pretty Broken Girl tropes. Notice that male attractiveness is usually based on traits associated with masculinity (ripped, height) whereas female attractiveness is usually associated with a kind of childishness (very skinny, long hair, big eyes), not strength.

Also, I know we have a huge victim-blaming culture, but...it's accepted that women are vulnerable. If attacked, women are not necessarily 'expected' to fight back. Men are supposed to be stronger, supposed to be 'fighters.' I think, in general, male victims make us more uncomfortable than female ones because women are just being a standard female archetype.*

Real life rape culture may prove me wrong on this point, but I think this is one of those standards that applies to a fictional world but not necessarily to the real one.
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Old 02-03-2013, 01:11 AM   #24
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Out of curiosity, do you feel like your dead girls show a negative portrayal of girls other than that you have plenty of them?
I don't think so. Entirely, at least. With all of them, except the second, I feel like I could pretty confidently switch the sex of the characters. Though it would take away the romantic, dead girl vibe.

Girl #1 -- Kills herself after a long bought with bpd. This is 80% through the novel. She's the MC's girlfriend, following a typical Winona Ryder-esque character. But there's a dead brother (also killed himself) here, too.

Girl #2 -- Her death is the inciting incident. Car accident. She was the MC's unrequited gay crush. She is very much the standard pretty blonde white girl until the MC gets to her diary. Her entries are about 1/3rd the novel, but it's primarily told from his POV. This one is entirely about him realizing his man angst is not the most important thing in the world.

Girl #3 -- Her death is also the inciting incident, but she's brutally murdered. This one is complicated because she was only 14 and I've got her characterized, from the MC's eyes, for lack of a better example, as being like Angelica Pickles. But she's the only girl who isn't really around for most of the novel. And this is the true dead girl novel, as in the MC man angst is the most important thing in the world and he actually tries to solve her murder. But it's more upper MG.

As I really think this through, I'm starting to notice other things. Like maybe my problem isn't dead girls—it's applying the dead girl trope to characters who exhibit more "feminine" traits. Is it the traits or simply the fact that she's female?

I wonder if it's possible to get the same "dead girl" response with a stereotypical dead nice-guy jock vs a metrosexual "feminine" guy vs a "tomboy."

I wonder, is this trope as a whole even problematic or if it's just about the girl being dead. Or if it's about the person holding those usually female associated traits being dead? I can't really bring to mind any non-traditional feminine trait holding females being used as poster children for the dead girl trope. It's usually the very "feminine" girls or guys. Not to spoil anything, but I'm thinking of Augustus Waters as poster child of dead boys, and he's rather "feminine" IMO, despite his attempted jock characterization.

As a side note, if I remember the Lanza shooting correctly, the two names and faces I remember distinctively were two little boys—Noah and Jack. Those boys faces and stories were the most prominent. Trayvon Martin's story was the most prominent flashing dead face I remember from '12. I wonder if the dead white girl in the media thing (missing white woman syndrome) is coming to a close.

I apologize for the long and rambly nature of this post.
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Old 02-03-2013, 03:14 AM   #25
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It's been a long time since I read Silence of the Lambs, but I remember liking how Thomas Harris handled the standard serial-killer-thriller dead-girl trope. First, the victims aren't model-gorgeous (of course, that's part of the novel's premise). Second, and more important, Clarice looks at tiny details like the polish on a dead girl's fingers, trying to piece together who she was, what she wanted in life. Through the eyes of a female detective who herself feels vulnerable to violence, the corpses get a certain dignity and individuality they wouldn't have on "CSI."

I cried when I read The Fault in Our Stars (and I don't cry easy), but it wasn't because I adored or idealized or objectified the doomed character. It was for the exact same reason I cried when I read Bridge to Terabithia and a certain M.T. Anderson novel: because I cared about the MC, and I knew this character's death was going to devastate the MC. Also because, by that time, the character seemed like a real person I knew, and the death of a person you know — sucks.

I think character death, male or female, is earned if it's more than a device to motivate the MC or freak out the reader, and if you extend the victim the courtesy of making him/her an individual.

I have a dead boy in my WIP. But he's kind of an ornery, obstructive ghost. Oh, and a second boy in a coma. Haven't decided if I need to kill off anyone else, but a girl could be next.
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