Recently a male friend posted a complaint on Facebook. He wrote, “Why is half the bookstore paranormal, urban fantasy, and dystopian? What kind of girlie crap is taking over literature?”
This made me grin like a fool, because I know the answer–and I also know that since he’s a guy, he’ll never understand. It’s a good question, though. Why are these genres so popular?
When I was young, I read my fair share of Boxcar Children, The Black Stallion, and the usual classics. But the books that really caught my attention were Nancy Drew, the Babysitters Club, and Ramona Quimby. Why? Because I could relate to them. They were girls, and they went through the same situations that I was going through (with the exception of Nancy Drew–thank heavens).
But for a long time, there really wasn’t much in terms of exciting literature for girls. There were plenty of sleazy romances, which I declined to read. I did read a lot of fantasy, which almost exclusively starred male main characters (and usually some sassy, too-smart sidekick girl, just to make us happy). Even female authors created male protagonists in their books. Just look at J.K. Rowling. The reason? Because male readers don’t buy books with female main characters, but females still buy books about males. It was about profit.
Somewhere around the Twilight era (I won’t give Stephanie Meyer credit, but her books certainly helped the trend), girls realized that they didn’t have to force themselves into the mind of a male character anymore. They could have adventure, excitement, and romance all at once–the three weren’t exclusive. They could experience the kick-butt action of Buffy the Vampire Slayer without sacrificing the sweet innocence of a first kiss or a love triangle.
Hence, real chick lit was born.
“But it’s all the same,” some people complain. “They’re all just the same plot, reborn in different ways, and marketed toward girls.”
Well, let’s look at male entertainment for a second. What’s the plot of the Matrix? A loser has to figure out who he is in order to defeat the bad guy. What’s the plot of Start Wars? Um, a loser has to figure out who he is to defeat the bad guy. Harry Potter? Yeah. Lord of the Rings? Well, you get the idea. There are only so many thriller plots they’ve come up with in the last century, and most of them involve bikini-clad blondes, explosions, and sports cars. Sorry, guys. That just doesn’t entertain us anymore.
Given a choice–which we all are, nowadays–I’ll definitely choose a female main character with brains and a personality. When I open a book, I want to feel totally immersed in another world, and experience what she experiences. It’s getting harder to settle for the typical Stephen King novel after the life-and-death adventure of dark dystopian worlds and blood-sucking monsters.
Is chick lit taking over? Maybe. But I don’t think that’s such a bad thing, considering that most readers are female anyway. Hopefully it will send a message to The Man. I love that Hunger Games, a book that was originally considered a chick book, was read by so many guys. My husband even went to the movie–a film where a GIRL was the main character. I know. When we can get our husbands and boyfriends to experience life from a girls’ point of view, that’s never a bad thing.
And who knows? Maybe they’ll actually learn something about us and what we’re really capable of. I’m excited to find that out myself.