Friday, August 21, 2015

Regarding Daughters of Other People

(Note: My post is in response to this article.)

I am a property manager's daughter*. I am an ex-doctor's daughter. I am an immigrant's daughter*.

(*Actually, both of my parents are property managers and immigrants, but I adjusted the wording in order to echo the titles.)

The thing is, I never think of or identify myself this way. When I identify myself, it's usually as a medical student, or as a fantasy writer, or as a millennial, (or as someone who spends way too much time on the internet). I never identify myself based on my parents or what they do. Even when I identify myself ethnically/nationally, I am much more likely to identify as "a second-generation Israeli" rather than "a daughter of Israeli immigrants" even though they technically mean the same thing. Even though my parents' identities are a huge part of who I am, I always identify myself first.

So why is it different with fictional characters? Why is it so important for someone to be "the daughter of _______"?

If any of you have ever read or written fanfiction, you're probably aware of how 90% of original female characters (including most of the ones who fall into Mary Sue territory) were the daughter of some important (usually male) canon character. You often see this trope in originally published books too.

Obviously, there is a lot of fascination with daughter tropes, and it doesn't take a genius to figure out why. Being the daughter of someone special means that, by default, you are special. Likewise, being the daughter of someone infamous or controversial means that you too are likely infamous or controversial. And if you don't already know that you're the daughter of [insert name of royalty figure or villain here], then you get an awesome self-discovery plotline! (But seriously, for once I'd like a character to discover that their real parents are farmers or bricklayers or accountants or something, not royalty.)

This isn't a bad trope, and I would be lying if I said I never use it. but it irks me when people use it as a title. From the outset, you're defining your character not based on who she is, but who her parents are. Is that really what's important? Is that how your character sees herself?

Because honestly, I'm not sure if that's a character I want to read about.

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