This was originally part of my review of Brave, but it got a little out of hand. Just a quibble I've been turning over in my mind recently. To be read as an addendum to that review if you like.
Can we stop with the girl archers extraordinaire now?
It's been fun, because archery is awesome. However, I suspect some weird
association between young women and archery that is based on the fact
that archery is somehow a more delicate, and certainly a more distant,
sport/weaponry than swords or hand-to-hand combat. (I'm not trying to
belittle archery here, just saying it seems to project a different
quality and a different set of virtues than other modes of fighting.)
Quick, name three recent portrayals of archers. I can think of Katniss
Everdeen, Princess Merida, and Legolas. So, two girls and an elf. Now,
elves are not paragons of classical masculinity. The whole point of
Legolas is that he's like a cat, never leaving a trace and never
receiving a trace either - his blond hair remains perfect as he shoots
down enemies from afar.
Thing is, one of the best things about heroes is that they get
extraordinarily beaten down and scuffed up and yet still carry on,
against all odds. They're super human. One kind of super humanity the
kind where you're not human, you're an elf, and your elf-eyes see
everything, and your aim is very, very good. Another kind is where
you're a woman, and you have great skills like archery and horseback
riding and bravery, but you still keep ending up in the hospital or you
fall off your horse for no good reason or no one believes in or
celebrates your prowess, or your hair always stays perfect no matter
what scrapes you get into.
If you have thoughts on this, please share in the comments, because I'm very interested in continuing the discussion, and I'm still working out my own thoughts about this issue.