Howlround contributor Catherine Treischmann recently wrote an article entitled Playwriting and Parenting: The Boyfriend Plot. Part of a series on Playwrighting and Parenting, this article explores her opportunity to teach playwrighting to her daughters girl scout class and her subsequent discovery that the large majority of the girls’ monologues revolved around, you guessed it – boyfriends. So she asks, what are the stories we are telling girls? What types of characters do they think they can inhabit?
From the moment I learned to read, I was devouring anything I could get my hands on; from the classics like the Babysitter’s Club to adventure stories such as The Golden Compass. This article struck a chord with me because of my passion for both storytelling in young children, and the support of complex female characters.
First let me say, I love a good kissing book. In middle school on long car rides I would entertain my friends with long sweeping tales involving them and their crush du jour (usually ending up with them riding off into the sunset). I love that boyfriend plot is always good for a fun time. So I think to myself, “have I been corrupted by the stories I have been exposed to? Am I trapped in the boyfriend plot without my knowledge?”
Maybe. Or maybe I’m just a sappy romantic. The more I think about the boyfriend plot the more passionate I become about everything under the sun that is not that.
My younger brother and I went through a period of excessively reading adventure/ spy novels targeted toward male teen audiences. Almost every novel, time and time again featured what we have come to call “the classic trio.” The classic trio is an adventure story trope. 1) Leading Man, a little offbeat but charming and courageous who somehow ends up on this journey with 2) the Girl, usually smart, always attractive, ready to help Leading Man save the day along with 3) the best friend, goofy and geeky, along for the ride and some comic relief. The personalities shift around but it always stands, two guys and a girl, the male being the focus. I quickly grew tired of the classic trio and wanted to see, more than just a woman at the helm, but a girl surrounded by other woman.
The female friends I’ve made throughout my life have impacted me at my core. These woman make up my past, my present and give me hope and courage to take on the future. It’s this passionate female friendship and support that stories could use a heck of a lot more of. There often feels in adventure stories that the heroine, in order to combat whatever trials are thrown at her needs to push away her friends. I hope to see more stories that tells us quite the opposite: to succeed is to have our friends by our side.
Young girls face so much battery from the media that enforces competition and comparison. From an early age the stories that are important are the ones that will counteract this competition as they get older. We should be making sure girls know that the support they can give to each other is one of the most beautiful aspects of being a woman. That together women can do amazing things.
These stories are out there. Absolutely. However they are not necessarily what we are reading in school. But they should be. And with a generation of women geared in to making sure the young girl is supported and encouraged to be as big and she can, I believe they will be.