1. Similyn
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    Similyn Member

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    Damsel in Distress?

    Discussion in 'Plot Development' started by Similyn, Jan 16, 2012.

    I've read over and over how the 'damsel in distress' plot is overused, outdated, etc... But, I happen to like reading those types of stories, and I like writing them as well. Mind you, I don't mean the type of 'damsel' that just sits there and does nothing whatsoever to help herself and waits for her knight in shining armor to come riding to her rescue.

    At the same time, I'm tired of reading plots where the 'damsel' rescues herself and doesn't need the 'knight' whatsoever, and he's just there to look pretty and act dumb (or some such thing as that).

    What do you all think about these types of stories?
     
  2. SunnyDays
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    SunnyDays Member

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    I agree with you I like the stories where the man comes to help the Lady in need. Mostly to show that he loves her.
     
  3. Felipe
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    Felipe Active Member

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    An excerpt from book three, "The New World."

    They approached Jamaica on the leeward side then dropped anchor. Juan Carlos wanted to hunt some of the pheasant that abounded on the island. Making the shore, they agreed to meet back in a tavern, then Juan Carlos walked into the jungle.

    Naomi was a local girl, she was tall for a Jamaican woman. Her skin was a smooth, ebony brown. Born of slaves, she had been sent by her master into the jungle to gather mangoes. She had her basket near full when she heard a deep grunt behind her in the jungle. She froze in place, then slowly turned her head. A large male boar was sniffing the scent of the mangoes, studying her with his small eyes. His tusks were long, these wild pigs would kill and eat a person, she stood as still as she could, knowing their eyesight was very poor.

    The large pig came closer, she could see the bristles rise along the ridge of his back as he saw her. The boar charged so she dropped the basket and ran as fast as she could, hoping the mangoes would fill his appetite. The boar ran past them, squealing loudly as he charged. He wanted flesh and sensed that she was a female.

    Naomi screamed as she ran around a curve in the trail. The boar was gaining on her fast when suddenly she ran off of a bluff and there was only air under her feet. Flailing her legs, she fell into a pool of quicksand, sinking immediately up to her waist.
    She knew not to struggle as this would only make her sink faster. She felt the cold, wet sand sucking her under, the foul smell rose to her nose. She began to scream for help, knowing that all of her family was far away working the cane fields. She continued to sink, she was up to her chest now and knew that she would soon die. Still she screamed as loud as she could.

    Juan Carlos stopped, the wind brought her cries to him. He ran as fast as he could also coming to the bluff. He stopped and looked down. She was up to her shoulders now.
    “Do not move!” he shouted at her.

    Naomi looked up with tears in her eyes, “Please kind sir, help me!”

    Juan Carlos ran down to her, then chopped a vine with his knife.
    “Catch this!” he shouted. He threw the vine to her as the sand closed over her jaw. Grabbing the vine with both hands, she held on as Juan Carlos pulled with all of his strength. She slowly came forward, Leaning her head back to keep her nose out of the foul smelling muck. Juan Carlos pulled her to the firm dirt of the trail, then helped her out and to her feet.

    Even covered with the smelly sand and mud, he saw that she was indeed a beautiful young woman. he especially liked the way that her dark eyes rose at the outside corners and her full, shapely lips. He smiled at her as she composed herself, wiping herself down.

    “I would hug you but I smell terrible.” she smiled at him.

    “What is your name pretty lady?”

    “My name is Naomi, and you are?”

    “I am Juan Carlos Montoya.” He smiled.
     
  4. arron89
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    arron89 Banned

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    You'd probably struggle to get a story like that published nowadays because (fortunately) people are less likely to tolerate such outdated representations of women.
     
  5. Jhunter
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    Jhunter Mmm, bacon. Contributor

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    I have read this three times and I cannot for the life of me find anything racist or chauvinistic. I am not saying you are wrong; I just can't see it.

    Also, this is a period series. So it is supposed to be "outdated."
     
  6. Similyn
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    Similyn Member

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    Really? "such outdated representations of women"? That smacks of 'politically correct' to me.

    Are women these days really all Amazons who can take care of themselves and never, ever accidentally get into trouble in which they need someone's help? ...Especially a man's?
     
  7. Lemex
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    Lemex That's Lord Lemex to you. Contributor

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    Try saying that to my girlfriend.
     
  8. Felipe
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    Felipe Active Member

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    On a side note; Juan Carlos and his men are in Jamaica on a mission, to free the slaves by killing their masters as they have been doing all through the new colonies. How racist can they get, killing only whites? They should be ashamed of themselves.
     
  9. Jhunter
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    Jhunter Mmm, bacon. Contributor

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    Most women I know still want a "knight in shining armor."

    It seems all I hear about these days on my facebook or at bars is women complaining chivalry is dead, and them wanting an old school guy.

    It is pretty contradictory because chivalry cant exist when you want to be treated like a man. Men are not chivalrous to other men.
     
  10. Lemex
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    Lemex That's Lord Lemex to you. Contributor

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    I guess things are different here in the UK, as no woman I know is like that. Most girls I know just want someone who can support them and appreciate them, while letting them do their own thing - I don't think I've even heard the term 'Knight in shining armor' since first school really.
     
  11. Jhunter
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    Jhunter Mmm, bacon. Contributor

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    Down with whitey! :p
     
  12. Jhunter
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    Jhunter Mmm, bacon. Contributor

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    I think America is like this because most of the young women here grew up with Disney movies (the princes are always used as a reference point it feels like). But they also grew up in a time where women are treated for the most part equal.

    So it brings out many contradictions.

    Women. Indecisive women.

    Gota' luv um tho. :D
     
  13. arron89
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    arron89 Banned

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    Well, first we have the privileged colonial gaze (heroic outsider/beautiful native, a variation on the 'noble savage' type that objectifies the notion of 'nativeness' as something both subordinate and attractive), which is compounded by the reiteration of the very 'damsel-in-distress' type this thread is discussing. So not only is the woman inferior to the man, who she must rely on to save her, the native is also rendered inferior to the outsider for the same reason.

    I wasn't called Felipe racist and chauvinistic, only saying that the text he quoted (which is all there is to his post) displays what I would term chauvinistic and racist (or at least insensitive and colonial) traits.
     
  14. Kio
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    Kio Contributing Member

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    So... if a guy is able to take care of themselves, they are normal, but if a woman wants to support herself without a man, she's an Amazon? That sounds a lot like a double-standard to me. And, yeah, the damsel in distress thing is outdated. People generally don't like it anymore because now people can see that women are very capable of supporting themselves (at least in Western society). It's really not that hard to understand.
     
  15. Jhunter
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    Jhunter Mmm, bacon. Contributor

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    So if she was ugly or old everything would be fine?
     
  16. arron89
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    arron89 Banned

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    No, it would still be problematic, although less of a cliche. It's more to do with the relationships of power within the text than how attractive she is.
     
  17. Lemex
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    Lemex That's Lord Lemex to you. Contributor

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    Disney? What is that?
    Joking. We have Disney too. :p

    I've heard Americans say British girls are more in-your-face. But I thought it was just said in jest.
     
  18. Jhunter
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    Jhunter Mmm, bacon. Contributor

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    I live fifteen minutes on the freeway from the original Disneyland. I can say in full confidence as a grown man that I adore that place still. Haha.

    And yes, I know you have Disney as well. :p I was just saying we have a Disneyland on either coast--so children here grow up with it perhaps a little more than the UK kids. It is ingrained in our culture now.

    But yeah, I have heard that statement as well. I haven't been to England in close to a decade--so I cant give my perspective on that.
     
  19. Jhunter
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    Jhunter Mmm, bacon. Contributor

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    Yeah, I can see what you are saying.

    But wouldn't it be unrealistic to have it not be a little racist and chauvinistic because of the time period it takes place?
     
  20. Similyn
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    Similyn Member

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    'Amazon' is obviously an exaggeration and not my point. If a 'normal' guy gets himself into trouble and needs someone's help, there wouldn't be any objections? Let's reverse the roles in Felipe's story. What if Juan had come across the boar and fallen into the quicksand, and Naomi happened to be working nearby and came to rescue him? Would that be chauvinistic and outdated? Just because someone needed help? What if Juan came by and saw a 'damsel-in-distress' but didn't help her because people would think him chauvinistic?

    I don't know...maybe people just read more into things like that than they ought to.

    As for me, I like my independence, but I also like it when my husband does things for me, even though I can easily do them for myself, like open doors and such. Do I expect it? No. But when he does it, I know he's just being courteous and ...gasp... nice. I never accuse him of being chauvinistic for doing so.
     
  21. arron89
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    arron89 Banned

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    But with this text, the character isn't racist, the way the contact is set up is. This setup embodies colonial types that are racist, but a writer who is sensitive to these outdated tropes might try to devise ways that such an interaction could occur without these imbalanced power relationships.
     
  22. Tesoro
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    Tesoro Contributing Member Contributor

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    Absolutely true. :) I guess my view on it has changed a lot lately after having been living in italy for a while where guys actually like to be a "cavaliere" when being around girls. Makes you start to appreciate those little gestures even more. :)

    I totally agree with you. bring back the good old fashioned gentleman!!!

    Why be so black or white about it? A woman might not need a man to survive or support herself but it doesn't mean she would refuse to be "rescued" from time to time... ;)
     
  23. Jhunter
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    Jhunter Mmm, bacon. Contributor

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    How dare you think logically!

    That is a right reserved for men!

    :p

    P.S. I hope you can tell that I am completely joking. ;)
     
  24. arron89
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    arron89 Banned

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    You're right in some ways, but you're also ignoring millennia of female subjugation. People are rightly sensitive to the idea of the damsel in distress as an outdated type because for thousands of years, the idea that females are inferior to men has been dominant in cultures all over the world. Empowering women has unfortunately become something of a joke to a lot of people in the aftermath of the radical feminism of the Seventies and onwards, but that shouldn't be used as an excuse to let representations of women in fiction slip back to where they were centuries ago. Gender representation in fiction (both novels and film) remains hugely unequal; to forget that gap is a grave mistake.
     
  25. Similyn
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    Similyn Member

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    No.

    Just kidding. ;P
     

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