Let's kick off our series with what will be a very helpful post for those needing a little guidance to work through what many will be talking about over the next couple of weeks. Sarah McCarry is here to offer insight into the unlikable female protagonist.
Sarah McCarry (www.therejectionist.com & @therejectionist) is the author of the novels All Our Pretty Songs and Dirty Wings (summer 2014), and the editor and publisher of Guillotine, a chapbook series dedicated to revolutionary nonfiction.
THE UNLIKABLE FEMALE PROTAGONIST: A FIELD GUIDE TO IDENTIFICATION IN THE WILD
Considerable debate has been devoted to the subject of the Unlikable Female Protagonist, a common pest of the natural world. While it is not our intent here to contribute to the extensive literature on her value as an object of study, we hope that by clarifying and outlining her identifying characteristics we may make a valuable and practical addition to the current research being conducted in the field.
The Unlikable Female Protagonist (UFP) is indigenous to a highly diverse spectra of ecosystems, climates, and geographical zones.
Global; she may also be found in a variety of uniquely fictive environments, including but not limited to magical kingdoms, future dystopias, re-imagined historical settings, re-told fairytales, Forks, Washington, and a a web of filth, sexual perversions, alcohol, and smoking.
ADULT and JUVENILE specimens of the UFP share a number of common characteristics and behaviors, and it is difficult to distinguish them in their natural habitats. Likewise, isolating the UFP in a group of Likable Female Protagonists may prove an insurmountable task for the casual observer; even researchers with extensive background in the field are frequently stymied when asked to assess physiological and behavioral differences between Likable and Unlikable Female Protagonists.
Complicating identification further, a Previously Likable Female Protagonist may transition suddenly into a UFP via the application of a traumatic event, such as sexual assault, parental abandonment, death of family member or friend, discovery of previously unknown supernatural power, crushing out on werewolves, puberty, etc. Notably, rather than process her response via culturally acceptable techniques such as quietly journaling alone, attending therapy, dressing nicely, and remaining chipper but not overly perky, the UFP expresses her distress via characteristic behaviors including but not limited to promiscuous sexual activity, drinking alcohol and attending rock concerts, disrespecting her parents, being a bitch, being a whiny, annoying, total bitch, being a conceited bitch, being a heartless bitch, being a shallow, narcissistic bitch, being a hypocritical, coldhearted beeyotch with a stick up her ass, being dirty, attending a diverse high school, being Muslim, living with a disability, being cleverer than Harry Potter, finding a man who is stupid enough to love her, masturbating, being afraid of her emotions, detaching herself from her emotions, and swearing. Yeah she had a bad past, with her absent dad, butthole boyfriend, and an unexpected pregnancy/subsequent abortion, but she is a whiny brat.
These, of course, are not the sole identifiers of the UFP, and merely existing may serve as trauma enough to effect a transition from Likable to Unlikable. The UFP is also feminist, not feminist enough, is too cheerful, overachieves, has pink hair, and does not criticize her love interest for putting up posters of attractive women on motorcycles. Additionally, the UFP may be precocious, a moron, irresponsible, too glamorous, too fat, too anorexic, too fixated on older men, gay, passive, arrogant, and not feminine enough. She has male friends, is obsessed with sex, is too rich, is too poor, talks too much about racism, and is generally detestable, selfish, and posse
ssed of solely first-world problems. Having cancer is no excuse for her whining, unless she is written by a man. She is overly forgiving, pathetic, a HUGE wussy/complainer, unremarkable , vapid, the kind of girl who feels the need to expose herself to a guy she doesn't know, overly forceful, and self-righteous. She would give IT up wayyyy too easily. She is, quite simply, an idiot.
While inexperienced researchers may express confusion about the apparently contradictory nature of the UFP's behaviors, the obvious unifying factor among them is the fact that the UFP is always, as her name suggests, female.
Female Protagonists may only ever be subdivided into "Likable" and "Unlikable"; for Fully-Developed Human Beings, refer to "Men."
DISCUSSION AND OBSERVATION TIPS
As noted above, isolating and identifying the UFP in natural environments is a challenging task for the researcher. While she may elect to self-identify by donning goth clothing or applying black eyeliner, it is as likely that she will be visually indistinguishable from her likable counterparts. The UFP is so common, in fact, that naturalists might be better served by devoting their energies to searching out the Likable Female Protagonist instead, a creature so rare and elusive that some researchers suggest she is extinct, or in fact a figment imagined by overly enthusiastic graduate students in the humanities. At any rate, delineating the behaviors of the Likable Female Protagonist, should they be definable, is outside the scope of the present paper.
Sarah McCarry's All Our Pretty Songs is available now and Dirty Wings will be available in July.