Recently, the books I’ve read have had major antiheroines as the main character, as opposed to heroines. Alin from Alasan Alin by Krisandryka, Delilah Bard from Shades of Magic trilogy by VE Schwab, Evelyn Hugo from The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo by Taylor Jenkins Reid, Nova Artino from Renegades by Marissa Meyer, Eleanor from Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman, and several others.
It is the same in movies. Take villain retellings like Cruella or just straight up “bad girls” like Number Seven of Umbrella Academy, or Amy in Gone Girl. To me, these are wonderful signs that popular culture is starting to shift from “girls have to be good”. It used to be that “when a girl is unlikeable, a girl is a problem” writes Roxane Gay in Bad Feminist.
Can a Girl be Seen as a Neutral Character?
Diana Wynne Jones, legendary author of Howl’s Moving Castle (and also my favorite author) admits in Reflections on the Magic of Writing that if she wanted to use a neutral character, she would have to use a boy. A girl character could not be seen as neutral. Especially not at the time when she was still alive and writing. Honestly, I wonder of this even now.
My own Nisha from Nishaverse, although not quite an antiheroine (I think she is still considered a heroine), also has a rebellious streak in her. It’s not as obvious as the current main character for the science fiction romance draft I am working on, but it is there for observant readers to pick up. As I am working on the translation of Nisha to Indonesian (hopefully set to release before the end of the year!), one of the beta readers, a bright Indonesian preteen girl, actually commented that she was surprised with how Nisha behaved as a girl.
Aha, I say silently. This preteen girl is precisely the age target of the Nishaverse series. It is precisely my aim to show that girls do not always have to be good, obedient, nice, etc etc etc. Girl characters do not even have to be likeable. They can be bad. Rebellious antiheroines. Despicable. Wicked! Tear up the centuries of unrealistic male fantasy.
We are finally claiming back our messy, complicated images instead of plastic Barbie doll figures.