Friday, September 18, 2009


Remember our discussion of anti-heroes? I just discovered some anti-heroines!

Well, two.

Sarah Connor in The Sarah Connor Chronicles (sadly cancelled).
Gemma in Sons of Anarchy.

Anyone familiar with these?

Notice a certain similarity--
Both are older (older than 35 anyway). Not nubile.
Both are outlaws (one on the run from The Terminator, the other the matriarch of a motorcycle gang)
Both are highly sexual, though Sarah tries to deny that part of herself
Both -- this is probably REALLY important-- are mothers of teen or young adult sons who are the sons of murdered fathers, and are themselves in constant danger
Both are physically tough and emotionally resilient

Gemma (I like her MUCH more, not sure why) is actually based on Gertrude in Hamlet, though she's more Lady Macbeth-with-a-cause. (Sons of Anarchy is a modern Hamlet, btw-- Hamlet is Jax, Claudius is Clay.) But Gemma is ten times tougher than silly Gertrude.

Anyway, I wonder if you're more likely to be an anti-heroine if you're Of a Certain Age... and the mother of a son you love fiercely.

Anyone watching SOA?



Kelsey (Dominique) Ridge said...

In my opinion, it would be hard not to be tougher than Gertrude. Also, I do think Lady MacBeth had a cause, otherwise what was the point of being filled from heel to head in direst cruelty? But your comparisons definitely caught my interest.

Edittorrent said...

Lady M was the perfect corporate wife!

Leona said...

I think that our society that rates youth and beauty higher than most other traits, and associates these same traits with goodness, makes it hard to have the older woman as the heroine.

I believe Jude Deveraux does this well, although I can't look for sure because I HAVE NO BOOKS. Sorry about that.

I'm going stir crazy without my books. I don't have any of them. The ones I looked to to check grammar, the ones that I used the most in my artwork, and the ones I love to read for the fun of it, they are all gone. Boxed up, stored, waiting for me to rescue them.

Okay, now that I have that out of my system, I can breathe. Anyone know of a good bookaholic group in San Antonio? LOL

ANYWAYS, I think age also gives experience and wisdom that isn't generally attributed to the young, making the anti-heroine actions more believable.

Jami Gold said...

Hmm, Alicia,

You might be on to something with your breakdown of anti-heroines. My own WIP heroine could definitely fall into the anti-heroine category... And let's see how she maps out:
- 36 years old
- reformed (mostly) con-artist, she still lies constantly, rationalizing her actions but it's really often for defensive or self-interested reasons
- definitely more sexual than those she's around (but that wouldn't take much), and using her sexuality was her usual approach during her con-artist days
- mother of young son with daddy-issues and sometimes in danger
- stubborn as all get-out, refuses to show any vulnerability, doesn't give up, etc., etc.

Spot on, I'd say. :)
Jami G.

em said...

I think your mention of the teenage boy and no father hits the point well with an anti-heroine figure. And a woman with a teenage son would have to be a certain age.:)

Edittorrent said...

Leona, I think of your books like a pet in quarantine in Europe, waiting for you to come collect them. :)

Gemma is tough, but in an intriguingly feminine way. (I think the motherhood thing is proclaiming, "Female tough"-- you have to be pretty tough to mother a child, I think.) SPOILER.
She was gang-raped, but won't tell her husband and son about it (they would both start a few gang wars about this, and besides, it's HER problem, not theirs).

So she calls the young woman doctor who is also her son's lover to come mend the cuts and bruises. And the doctor (they pretty much hate each other) does her duty, and then says, "You really need to talk to someone about what happened to you-- a group or something."
And Gemma fixes her with those cold, fierce eyes. "That's what you're for."

Tara (the doctor) kind of gulps. It's like Lady Macbeth wanting-- not, commanding-- you to be her confessor.

It's the most authoritative cry for help ever.

What's interesting about the casting of this show-- everyone actually looks kind of tough and scrubby-- proletarian. Even the best-looking ones, the stars, are a bit scrawny and sharp-faced. (Well, some of the bikers are beefy and red-faced.) I don't think there's anyone, except maybe the evil FBI woman, who is "pretty" in that Hollywood way. They all look tough and like they're refusing to be scared.


Riley Murphy said...

LOL @ lady M. as perfect corporate wife. I'm printing that one and sending it to my sister in-law who thinks that's exactly what she is. Huh, I wonder if she'll get it?

I definitely think that the mother/teenage son issue is the key to having a successful anti-heroine. The heroine must take the roll of both mother and father and become the active role model for the teen, while it’s expected that she’ll navigate the turbulent waters they find themselves in, in an effective and unemotional manner. I mean, think about Terminator with a teenage daughter. Which one of them would cry first? Probably the Terminator when he finds the girls hugging each other.;)

Actually, now that I think about this. I’d be less likely to be super protective of my daughter as I would over my son. Anyone else notice, that as a woman, you have a tendency to throw the daughter to the wolves and with your son your first instinct is to coddle? I recognized this a long, long, time ago and figured it was because I know what my daughter has to face in life and what the issues are, but I have no idea about my son. The unknown is a pretty powerful draw for a parent to jump in and offer protection.

Murphy - working hard to skip doing laundry today.:D

Jami Gold said...


Yes, I agree. The "momma's boy" and "daddy's girl" stereotypes exist for a reason. :) But even if the dynamics are completely different (i.e. the son is made to be tough, etc.), the connection with those relationships still remains valid.

Jami G.

Riley Murphy said...

Hi, JG! How are you?
Okay, I'm thinking about those valid relationships and when you apply them to a story how does it translate? I mean, the obvious is the mother over-protective of the son - the father over-protective of the daughter, but why (and I'm thinking in terms of film stories, here) are there so few mom/daughter or father/son stories? You know, where you explore the idea that it isn't because a mother loves her daughter less - or GAG, there's friction because they don't get along...why can't the established connection simply be that the mother expects her daughter to be as strong as she is, because that's the reality, right? And the same for the father.
Hmm, although with a son - when the father has these same expectations of him, a mother has a tendency to get her back up, and criticize the father for being too mean and overbearing. Interesting. What's worse is that these get perpetuated through movie and story hype. The domineering father to the boy. The two women having difficulty coexisting under the same roof, for the girl.
I’m trying to think of a mother and daughter action flick where they play if off without the hype. I can only think of Aliens - but then Newt isn’t really her daughter. There has to be one. Surely there’s a girl out there somewhere that needs to be saved by her kick-ass mom - anti-heroine?
Murphy (scratching her head and still successfully ducking out of doing the laundry :D)

Leona said...

I'm sick, so I'm probably missing something important here, but, um, how would they show it without hype? It seems that it's been so overdone that the hype is implied. I would love to explore that relationship in writing as my daughter and I went through serious tribulations and fantastic highs together. (I've had two babies in hospital for RSV and premature birth and she's been my helper both times. She is the oldest so many things fell on her.)

WE've worried and celebrated together as well. I spent 7 years with a misdiagnosis so got very sick before the cancer was removed. I think, even if it's not for publication, that writing about this would help both my daughter and I. However, I don't want it to only be about conflict. I want it all to be there. Any ideas how to not hype?

BTW, I've almost finished the line item edits from forever ago, LOL. I haven't been happy with them, but with the recent posts, I've applied myself diligently to fixing them. :D

Riley Murphy said...

Hi Leona! Sorry to hear that your sick.

I want to start off by clarifying a point. I was talking about anti-heroine Moms for girls. I don't think that's what your going for unless you've kicked some major ass in your short life (I'm going out on a limb here to say that's probably not your style :D), so forget the hype comment in this regard, okay?

I think if I were going to write a tribute, because that's what your actually saying, right? I'd put aside the fact that this special woman in my life is my daughter. I'd focus on her as an individual first. And once I detailed all the special qualities she possessed in her own right, then I'd move in closer. I think that we have a tendency to steal our children’s thunder by doing this the other way around. Invariably, we start off by comparing them to us and all this really does is validate ourselves. We claim all the good stuff because we created them, and then we tell them the other stuff sort of happened along the years of them growing up. Not very empowering.

No, my story to her would be just that, to her. Not a huge and convoluted accounting of all our experiences together, but a culmination of the most important things that taught me something about myself, because she was there. It’s the cycle of life and passing that on - is totally empowering. :)

Anonymous said...

I LOVE anti-heroines and one of my main characters is an anti-heroine. She's tough, is definitely over 40, and has her issues.

I read a friend't manuscript recently with the same type of female character, and I say YARRGAARRHH! Enough of these pussy-footin' little princesses, let's get some real women in there to solve the problems.

I haven't encountered Gemma yet, but I'll be watching for her now, she sounds like the kind of female character I like. ;-)

Thanks for the post, Alicia!

Edittorrent said...

So, fro, do you think you could do an anti-heroine under forty? I wonder if women have to get past the societal expectations to be sexy and fertile (whore/madonna) first?


Anonymous said...


I think it has to do with the way a woman at forty has surrendered herself to a certain level of peace due to maturity and learning from her mistakes as a young woman. I was a very angry young woman due to some terrible experiences, but at forty-five, I’ve learned from those experiences. I’ve also learned a level of self-acceptance that I didn’t have when I was younger. I refuse to allow the horrible things in my past to control my present.

These are attitudes that have taken me years to achieve, and I believe that is what makes these anti-heroines so believable. They’ve accepted themselves and their circumstances so they don’t give a damn what you think of them. I know exactly where I am today emotionally and spiritually, and so don’t these women. You may not like them, but they don’t care. They like themselves in spite of the fact that everyday isn’t green tea happy. That’s what’s important. It’s an inner essence that comes from self-knowledge, and it’s not something that can be feigned.

So if that’s what you mean by getting over the whore/Madonna imagery, then yes. But I also believe it runs deeper, into the core of who we are and who we become as we get older.

Oh, I could do you an essay, but I'm out of time! ;-)

What a super subject, thanks for bringing it up!


Anonymous said...

I realized I didn't answer your question. I would drop the age somewhat, because I've seen women in the mid-late thirties who are starting to exhibit their maturity.

I think it would be very difficult to make a believable anti-heroine that is under 35.