When beginning this exploration into possible research topics, I looked at recurring themes and ideas in YA dystopian fiction. Rebellion, privacy, individuality, fear/torture, and power are all themes commonly observed in YA dystopias. Another aspect shared by many of the most popular YA dystopian novels/movies is a strong female protagonist. That got me thinking about what roles female characters fulfill in genres outside of YA. The first piece of research I did was of the highest grossing films of 2016 (because I knew it would provide a good general idea of the most popular stories being shared in the world today, and also because I knew the odds were high that I had seen them and could therefore judge the roles of their female characters). The only ones that had strong female characters (the definition of a “strong female character” is coming soon – sit tight) were Rogue One:A Star Wars Story and Zootopia (the former coming in 10th, the latter coming in 3rd: Source). Zooptopia is most certainly aimed at a young audience, and Rogue One, while aimed at a more overarching audience, is also marketed to people that fall into the “Young Adult” category as well. This made me think – how does the intended audience of a work affect the extent to which strong female characters are showcased?
I think the definition of a strong female character goes beyond “any girl appearing in a movie that passes the Bechdel Test”. To me, they need to have their own goals and achieve those goals on their own accord.
Examining films marketed to children, I started with Disney, because of the $11.1 billion made by the film industry in 2016, $7 billion of it was made by Disney alone. The defining characteristic of Disney is the Disney Princess. It seems to me that if the defining characteristic of the most important film studio in children’s media is strong female characters, I may have a lead to go on towards answering my question.
This question also seems fitting because it allows me to look at the genre of dystopian YA through its most relatable aspect – its characters. These characters will be comparable to characters outside of dystopian works as well, which will drastically open up my choices of literature to look at, as well as make the dystopian works even more distinct.