matociquala: (shotgun spies mfu illya)
[personal profile] matociquala

So basically this is Fran Wilde's fault, because I was on a tear about it the other night and she told me I needed to write a blog post. So here's a blog post. (Does anybody even read blogs anymore? Tap, tap, is this thing on? "140 characters is all anyone will ever need.")

My Least Favorite Trope (and this post will include spoilers for The Lego Movie, Guardians of the Galaxy, The Matrix, Western Civilization, and--cod help me--Bulletproof Monk*.) is the thing where there's an awesome, smart, wonderful, powerful female character who by all rights ought to be the Chosen One and the hero of the movie, who is tasked with taking care of some generally ineffectual male character who is, for reasons of wish fulfillment, actually the person the film focuses on. She mentors him, she teaches him, and she inevitably becomes his girlfriend... and he gets the job she wanted: he gets to be the Chosen One even though she's obviously far more qualified. And all he has to do to get it and deserve it is Man Up and Take Responsibility.

And that's it. Every god-damned time. The mere fact of naming the films above and naming the trope gives away the entire plot and character arc of every single movie.

I thought for a minute that Guardians of the Galaxy was going to pull off a subversion. They were so close. All they had to do was have somebody make the point that We Survived The Magic Radiation Because We All Worked Together, but no, it's the pure fucking light of Chris Pratt's Y chromosome that rescues the day again.

This is the part where I point out my love for Farscape, in part for not falling for this shit--in fact, for relentlessly subverting the Corn-Fed White American Dude Goes To Space And Brings American Values To The Natives narrative. In part by showing space and aliens driving Crichton nuts, and in part by surrounding him with endless competent awesome women.**

You know, I've taken a lot of responsibility in my life, and never once has it resulted in me becoming a Chosen One. I guess it's the lack of a broken chromosome.

Anyway. So tired of that narrative. Somebody please write me the book or movie where it turns out that the chick was the Chosen One all along? 

*Remember Bulletproof Monk? Neither does anybody else, except me, and that's because it pissed me off. It's really fun to watch Toronto cosplay New York ineffectually throughout the movie, though.

**Also, one of my dearest friends and favorite people basically is Aeryn Sun, so yeah.

Date: 2014-09-12 02:36 pm (UTC)

Date: 2014-09-12 02:42 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
Want to be sure you've read In Praise of Joanne Rowling's Hermione Granger Series ( Because yes.

Personally, I am even less fond of the Girls Ruin Everything trope--c.f. Guinevere et alia. It ruined Super 8 for me, among many other stories.

Date: 2014-09-13 12:48 am (UTC)
sovay: (Rotwang)
From: [personal profile] sovay

That is excellent.

Date: 2014-09-14 05:14 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
You could pretty much start and end with "Chosen Ones," for my taste. Because nobody deserves a win so much as to have it predestined to them. And especially not because of some accident of biology. I don't care what that burning bush or the tart in the lake said to you. (And I realize how much literature I throw out when I say that.)

This is one of the things I particularly like about The Hunger Games that I think most of its imitators have missed. Katniss is special not because she has been chosen but because she has chosen, and that is an extremely powerful message -- not a Chosen One but a Choosing One.

The one thing which might mitigate the Chosen One for me would be someone who was told by whatever ancient eminence that they were Chosen for whatever, who realizes just how un-special they are. Frodo or Miles Vorkosigan, maybe.

Date: 2014-09-16 04:12 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] sharon ohnesorgen (from
equal rites by terry pratchett has a chosen one who is special/powerful but walks away from the destiny anyway

Date: 2014-09-12 03:58 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
I adore that link, yes, yes.

Date: 2014-09-12 06:28 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
*goes, reads*

Ha. Too damn right.

Date: 2014-09-12 02:47 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
Do you actively like Chosen Ones, or is this just the way you feel like a Chosen One story would be least annoying? (This is a genuine clarifying question, not an attempt to bash you with anti-Chosen One rhetoric if you like them when handled well.)

Date: 2014-09-12 02:51 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
I am agnostic on them if they are handled well, really. But they are so rarely handled well.

Date: 2014-09-12 03:15 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
I find that to be the case also.

Date: 2014-09-12 02:49 pm (UTC)
yendi: (Default)
From: [personal profile] yendi
Have you seen Tasha Robinson's piece on the subject over at The Dissolve?

Date: 2014-09-12 03:18 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
Somebody please write me the book or movie where it turns out that the chick was the Chosen One all along?

Working on it. Several iterations of it, actually. Because, yeah, with you on that one.

Date: 2014-09-12 03:19 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
So, the phrase "Chosen One" totally makes me think "Buffy the Vampire Slayer" and gods know it has its flaws, but the girl really is the savior of the universe. A lot.

Very tangentially, have you seen the Canadian show "Slings and Arrows"? It subverts the "white boy is handed clue on platter, gets clue, becomes clueful" trope and this makes me very happy. Am personally very tired of watching the white boy get a clue when handed to him, carefully gift-wrapped and chosen to compliment the color of his living room furniture.

Date: 2014-09-12 03:29 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
(Mentioned this over on Twitter too) I'd add to your annoying Chosen One examples, Pixar's "Up". The brave adventurous woman seems to have existed solely to sacrifice her dreams so that her death can inspire the grumpy old man to become a hero (and belated father-substitute, bringing in the father/son bonding trope as well).

Date: 2014-09-12 03:57 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
At least there, white cis het male as he is, he has the bonus rarity of being an OLD man, which frankly, is almost as underrepresented.

Not disagreeing, exactly, just saying I give Up a bit more slack for its slightly less conventional conventional hero. (I wonder, too, if they could have done a 10-minute mini-epic opening like the one they did with a less cliched history and have it have the same impact of sympathy? I think they could have, but I'm open to a counter-argument.)

Date: 2014-09-12 04:40 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
UP is not an example of the thing I am talking about, to my mind, but I certainly accept that it pisses you off.

Date: 2014-09-12 05:33 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
Ah, yes -- sorry for distracting. (I think I was working a couple abstractions deeper off the same themes.)

Date: 2014-09-12 03:31 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
Arghh, mispelled "complement." I do know better, honest.

Date: 2014-09-13 05:32 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
I adored Slings and Arrows, even bought the DVDs

Date: 2014-09-12 04:02 pm (UTC)
ext_48468: (yep yep yep uh huh)
From: [identity profile]
I'm with you on this. Although Guardians of the Galaxy was especially bad, because I went in knowing that Gamora is this absolute badass who can go toe to toe in hand to hand combat with Thanos. . . and instead I got semi competent capture bait. Blargh.

Date: 2014-09-12 04:23 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
So, I mostly hate chosen one tropes. I mean, I can deal if they're well handled, but even then they tend to reinforce underlying ideas about power and power dynamics that I find distasteful.

Oh, and I hate stupid gender dynamics even in absence of chosen one tropes.

That all being said, bulletproof monk was one of the milder examples - I mean, yeah, who knows why she fell for him, but at least it was openly acknolwedged that they were both and equally the chosen one. And as far as ridiculous martial arts flicks go, it was fun. (Of course, "fun" means that I had a great time hanging out with my martial arts peeps and mocking it. I mean, things that were historically ridiculous. Things that were linguistically ridiculous. Things that were physically ridiculous. Why not throw in emotionally ridiculous?)

Date: 2014-09-12 04:26 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
Yeah. I did feel like she got consolation prized at the end, but it wasn't half as irritating as, oh, HOW TO TRAIN YOUR DRAGON II or READY PLAYER ONE, to mention two that got named by various people on twitter.

Date: 2014-09-12 05:51 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
Come to think of it, my whole experience of the movie was influence by one of my Shaolin brothers spending the entire time ranting at the screen about how much more awesome she was.

Which was kind of adorable.
Edited Date: 2014-09-12 06:08 pm (UTC)

Date: 2014-09-12 05:48 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
I was especially frustrated by that aspect of The LEGO Movie because they were obviously trying to be critical of the trope . . . but they didn't go so far as to ditch it, which made the critique fall flat. It's like the type of humour that tries to mock racism or sexism or whatever by being over-the-top racist or sexist: there's a point at which I feel like it's still just perpetuating the bullshit you're theoretically trying to stop.

Date: 2014-09-12 06:00 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
People still read blogs - and I’m reading with interest.

I don’t hate the Chosen One trope; I fully accept and understand that it doesn’t work for everyone. (And, like another commentator, it immediately makes me think of Buffy.)

I haven’t seen Guardians of the Galaxy yet. Did this ruin the movie for you? Having not seen it, from a distance (your description) it sounds like the woman in this role is kind of the mother figure/master to the bumbling but promising apprentice - which makes it sort of a coming of age for the apprentice. But! Again: haven’t seen it yet.

Date: 2014-09-12 07:40 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
It didn't ruin the movie for me, because there were so many other things I didn't like about the movie that it was impossible to ruin.

But it ruined the Lego movie for me. And the second How To Train Your Dragon. And various other otherwise pretty okay movies and books.

Date: 2014-09-17 08:30 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
It didn't quite ruin the Lego Movie for me (seeing it with adorable young nephew boosted it up a lot), but it left a very bad taste. Especially the throw away line at the end where Batman says that since Emmett was the hero he gets the girl, and she AGREES. It's not even subtext.

Throw Lucy away woman -- you are Wyldstyle! Don't go with the guy who can't even remember what name you prefer!

PS. I refuse to believe Gamora becomes Peter's girlfriend. She is maybe friends with him. I know he doesn't believe that, but he's wrong about this sort of thing a lot. Otherwise I agree.

Date: 2014-09-12 06:25 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
"Somebody please write me the book or movie where it turns out that the chick was the Chosen One all along?"

Patricia Wrede sort of does that with Thirteenth Child.

I don't think she's subverting quite the same trope, but the main character definitely sees herself as being in a supporting role to her very special brother who is certain to grow up to do very special things and then... she ends up saving the day.

Of course, the real reason I like the trilogy is because it is one of the few fantasy stories I've come across where the conflict is consistently "man against nature" rather than man against "EVVVIIIILLLLL for no reason just because EVVVIIIILLLLL." :D

Date: 2014-09-12 06:32 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
Sam Carter? But, in general, you're completely correct.

Date: 2014-09-12 07:18 pm (UTC)
ext_58972: Mad! (Default)
From: [identity profile]
Yeah, this trope sucks. Indeed, all central-hero-surrounded-by-adoring-love-interest/sidekick narratives suck.

(I took a hatchet to it in "The Jennifer Morgue"; maybe I ought to do it again ...?)

Date: 2014-09-12 07:37 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
Yeah, you done good on that one.

Date: 2014-09-12 07:30 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
I love Bulletproof Monk, and yes, she should have gotten the entire tattoo, but, I did think it was cool how they split it between the two worthy people. She is way more qualified than him, thats for sure, but he got the redemption part right.

Date: 2014-09-13 03:50 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
There has been a terrible dearth of Bear-rants in my feed as of late, and I am happy to see this one. ^_^


I am totally going to use your description of Farscape as a way to get my gf to watch it. =)
Edited Date: 2014-09-13 03:51 am (UTC)

Date: 2014-09-13 03:54 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
Yeah, that. It particularly gave me the irrits in Guardians of the Galaxy because a) Nebula and Gamora, right there, why was the whole film not about their epic foster-sisterly rivalry of Shakespearean proportions ending in a fraught alliance against an abusive father figure? and b) the whole film was pretty much a blatant Farscape ripoff made by people who didn't get what made Farscape great or funny to start with (seriously, you have a sequence set inside the skull of a dead ancient being, and there is no gross-out body horror moment at all? Pfffffft. Chickens).

Date: 2014-09-13 05:29 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
Um, Buffy was the Chosen One and one of her last acts was to enable every female with Chosen One powers.

And I read every word of your blogs and from the tales you tell, you are a Chosen One, so there.

But I get your point and agree.

Date: 2014-09-13 09:46 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
I'm going into season 2 of Agents of SHIELD hoping they do right by Skye's character, since there is a bit of "chosen one" about her backstory.

Date: 2014-09-18 08:44 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
Bear, you already wrote it. You have scads of awesome, strong female characters who kick ass and take names and run things like a boss. Blood & Iron anyone?
There are a million examples out there ...just most are shoved back by Hollyweird.

Date: 2014-09-18 10:53 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
My own books are useless to me for pleasure reading!


Date: 2014-10-01 05:59 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
Thank you for mentioning Farscape! I'd seen stray clips and one movie (post series I think) before but never gotten around to watching it. Your post motivated me and I am thoroughly enjoying season one!

I was already a fan of Claudia Black's from Stargate SG1 but love seeing her play Aeryn. Thanks again!

troupe reversal

Date: 2014-10-07 06:05 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] mary reppy (from
Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind by Miyazaki - there is a prophecy that the remaining humans (after some mega ecological and warfare disaster) will be saved by a man in blue except it turns out to be the heroine who fulfills the prophecy.

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