Tropes, Women, and the Heroine’s Journey

Is There Such a Thing as a Feminist Trope?

We’re studying the “tropes vs women” topic in my yearlong Heroine’s Journey course, and it’s the perfect subject for a free mini-class!

At the beginning of our course, (and also in the free intro course) we talked about the Flores test and the Bechdel test, and students were encouraged to make their own “is it feminist for reals?” test.

Keep those tests in mind as you explore these links.

  • Start here with this awesome video by a man (gasp!) discussing feminist film tropes to celebrate. A lot of these characters are still using violence to solve their problems but hey, nobody’s perfect!
  • Next, read this article.

Wait, What is a Trope? Is There Such a Thing as a Feminist Trope?

​A trope is a formula for shaping a story. It’s sort of like that story’s “brand identity.”

​Let’s start with this example of a trope we all know, the “epic tale.”​ Read it through our heroine’s eyes, would ya?

It’s almost funny, right?

Now that you have your ecofeminist thinking cap all charged up, have fun with this labyrinth! Just hop around a bit and see what you find. Notice that “hero’s journey” is listed as but one of many tropes but truly, as I am sure you have noticed, the overarching theme pervades them all.

Now that you’ve gotten acquainted, explore some of these common tropes and ask yourself why they might be harmful to women. And is it possible to use these as tools, without falling into the traps they present?

Finally, add this bit of essential reading/watching, “Tropes vs Women” to the top of your list. It’s really well done and is such an important conversation.

For a binge-worthy education in ALL the tropes, watch the 2009–2015 show, Community. Here’s their Straw Feminist, Britta.

Once you’ve had a right deep dive in that rabbit hole I just showed you, do some freewriting.

Ask yourself these questions:

  1. Where have you seen each of these formulas used?
  2. Did you feel empowered when you saw them? Or not?
  3. Do you relate to any of these characters? Why or why not?
  4. Did you “fall for it,” meaning: did you feel pretend empowered, but are now realized it was just more lipservice and patriarchal brainwashing?
  5. How might these ideas be applied to, or contrasted with, what we’re learning about the Heroine’s Journey and/or your own journey as a writer?
  6. And the fun part: which tropes might be especially helpful for developing a story you are now writing? Did you get a bunch of ideas? What are they?!?

Or, maybe you’ll decide there is no such thing as a feminist trope, because we won’t be formula-ized and caricaturized, no matter how close to home some of these might feel.

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