But for genre fiction, especially action/adventure romance, I’m a fan of the younger heroine, and it really confuses me when I hear people say that they can’t identify with those females any more or don’t find them relevant to their lives.
Here’s how it works for me. When I was a young woman, I identified with young protagonists because we were all making the same choices, and man, did we have choices! Part of the reality of life is that as you make those choices, you narrow the range of your future options – not a lot, but enough so that it matters. It’s not a question of whether you regret your choices. Even if you’d do it all again – have that baby, not have that baby, go to law school, use your savings to buy a house or use it to backpack around the world – you still eliminated certain possibilities.
And when I read genre fiction, it’s all about the possibilities. I could be that spy! Even though we all know I can’t be that spy because of child-care issues, or whatever. Mister Wonderful could be just around the next corner and he could be anyone, even though in reality, I’ve got mine, and as great as he is, he’s a certain build, hair color, personality.
For me, a young protagonist provides a do-over. A chance to go back to a time of seemingly unlimited choices and play around with them again. When I’m in that twenty-something year old’s point of view, I’m that age again myself.
What does the over-35 heroine have to offer me? Hmmm, a seasoned, experience point of view? A rich life? I can hear all that from my friends (who by the way, are completely kick-ass and fun and lead exciting lives – just for fewer hours a day, on a tighter schedule, and with more ibuprofen involved).
The possibility of long lasting love? I’m lucky enough to live that. And if I weren’t – if my marriage hadn’t worked out – I wouldn’t want to read about someone’s who had. I’d want to read about someone who was just starting out, filled with possibilities and unknowns. I’d want to recapture that experience. For literary fiction or stories approaching that nature, sure – a forty year old suicidal divorcee can give me a thought-provoking experience. I’m interested in learning a little about her. But being her? No thanks. And if she’s a semi-well-adjusted forty-year old female with normal problems, well as I said, I’ve got friends to provide lots of juicy details about that.
Hmm, this is not nearly as coherent as I had planned it to be. I guess my point is this: while there are vocal readers, and editors, talking about making the heroine relevant to the older reader, I am delusional enough to believe that the majority of women want to read about the exciting world of unlimited choices – whether they’re in that stage themselves, or just have fond memories of it and want to recapture the feeling. Given a choice of a few hours away from real life, they enjoy re-living certain challenges, certain “firsts.”
I’m not talking maturity level here, by the way. My favorite characters are often unusually mature by nature, or forced to grow up too quickly by circumstances – lots of variety possible here. (Plus, maturity is sort of a myth to me. For example, I didn’t use profanity in my twenties. Now I do. Does that make me more mature? Less? Sheesh, so much of this stuff doubles back on itself! I’m confident enough now to be immature when the situation calls for it, whereas I would have been mortified at 25 to act that way! I believe in guts, imagination, intelligence, and integrity – and those virtues are just as prevalent in young women as in older ones, so maybe that’s my point. They’re both the same person, just at different stages of life, and for a couple of hours, I’ll take the endless-possibilities stage any time)
p.s. movie report soon, but meanwhile, I loved the new DIE HARD movie.