How do we learn everything we know about specific dystopian societies?
We live through the main character, gaining their perspective on the situation; everything we know is what they know or think they know. This would indicate that the creation of the protagonist of a dystopian work is very important, and many details must be taken into account. This realization then led me to ask the question: why are the vast majority of dystopian protagonists female?
In my research paper, “Female protagonists make differences in dystopian worlds as well as our own”, I examine how authors (and screenwriters) of dystopian works use a female protagonist as a mechanism to challenge stereotypes and expectations of young women in our societies, thus empowering them and encouraging them to not conform. My research delves into the female protagonists’ skills and capabilities, love triangles within YA dystopia, and real-life activism.
Female protagonists in dystopias are equipped by the author with an array of skills and qualities that help her fight for her cause. Her capabilities communicate “girl power”: an attitude of self-assertiveness and political insight, and this image of the character aims to dissolve any degrading stereotypes of women, as well as cultural expectations of women to stand down or conform to society’s perception of “beauty”.
Love triangles seem to come hand-in-hand with female protagonists in dystopias. Are the authors writing love triangles because they sell well? Maybe. Is that the only reason? Definitely not. Have you ever wondered what the point of a love triangle is? What they accomplish? My paper investigates the use of the love triangle, and how it allows the presence of choice for the female protagonist. Furthermore, her choice often represents a much bigger decision, such as whether she will sit back and watch, or throw herself into the action.
Finally, the effects of the female protagonists in dystopia can be seen across the world. Leadership camps inspired by Katniss have popped up, and protests using symbols from dystopian novels.
Female protagonists in dystopia are empowering for young female readers, and insightful and correcting for any reader with a perception shaped by society’s expectations and standards. These fictional women are contributing to the author’s underlying messages, and this certainly makes them stand apart from those in regular young adult fiction.