Wednesday, 21 January 2015

Opinion piece: Why I don't care about a character's gender

Something extra that I didn't think I'd do, but might as well throw my opinion into the mix.

This is something I see crop up more and more over the years as each entertainment medium evolves, that being the diversity of the genders in (insert medium here). Now while my view is slightly different for music, my view for film, television, books and games is exactly the same. I don't care about the character's gender.
Now I'm sure I'm going to get some hate for that statement but hear me out. One of the things I notice more and more with visual mediums is that, more often then not, the positions the characters are placed in aren't gender specific, its easier to write a gender neutral situation instead of a gender specific situation, as it opens the work as a whole to a wider audience. When you create a world, regardless of what you use to show it, your world doesn't have to follow society's pressures, in fact people prefer it to not follow them. When you play a game, watch a film or show, read a book, you do so to escape reality and while your stories might critique society at the time of writing, it doesn't have to be the focus, it doesn't have to be shoved down your audience's throat. Take A Christmas Carol for example, the bulk of the story is focused on Scrooge's transformation, but during the parts of the story that reflect the real world, it highlights the society that was around when the story was written, the story was to educate, to show that the views at that time were wrong. Now while we may think its obvious now, it wasn't exactly obvious then, the world didn't change because the story was released.

So how does this relate to my view of base genders (male or female) in stories. If you were to rewrite A Christmas Carol and change Scrooge's gender, what would change? While it would change a lot back then, due to the way women were treated back then, in today's society, realistically, it would change nothing. What would be different if Chell from Portal was male? Nothing. Link's gender? Nothing. Harry Potter, Katniss Everdeen? Realistically, nothing about the stories themselves would change, the characters themselves wouldn't change. Would they loose some impact on society? Maybe, but the change would be negligible at best. The reason why is because characters are written in gender neutral situations, anyone could be in the characters position. Now while there are some exceptions to this general rule, in particular when you want to delve into stories that work better with a specific gendered characters, take Ms Weasley as a example, who is meant to be a motherly character to serve as a contrast to the Dursleys, she wouldn't work as a male character because she is meant to be a mother, her character arc explores the concept of motherhood. As a whole, characters could have their gender changed, and it wouldn't impact on the story, hence why I don't care about the gender because I don't see male and female characters, I see characters.

Now I mentioned that my view for music is different, and there's a reason for that. I don't listen to music for a story, if I want a story, I'll read, watch or play a story. What I listen for in music is the melody, what was used to make the song, the notes, the instruments and how they work together. As a result, there are melodies that, to me, work better with either a male singer, female singer or at times, both and even none of the above, completely dependent on the strengths and weaknesses of the composer in question. Male and female voices are different, you have to be one of the most arrogant people in the world not to see the difference, and as such, both have their own strengths and weaknesses. Some songs work better with the strengths of a female singer, others work better with the strengths of a male singer. Some work better with the strengths of both, and some don't need the strengths of either. Here's some examples of the differences:

Crashed by Chris Daughtry

Under Our Spell by Daniel Ingram

Now what if we swapped the genders? Now as a warning, these have been achieved using audio editing software and aren't new recordings, as such some may see this as cheating, however I don't know singers who would be willing to do these numbers and I have to make do with the tools I have.

Crashed female version

Under Our Spell Male version

Distortion due to editing aside, you see just how drastically different the pieces are when the gender of the singer is swapped. Now granted, it would be better if the songs were sung by actual people then editing to make them sound like a different gender, but I'll work with what I have. The tone of the pieces change and the melody is weakened as a result of the changes made. If there are problems with the examples I've used, here's another

Let it Go (movie version) (if for whatever reason you've somehow avoided listening to the original and would like to see my point)

Let it Go (movie remix)

Let it Go (fan remix)
You can see how the song, the melody and mood of the piece is changed from singer to singer, each version edited to play to the strengths of the singer in question. Now for me, I think the song works best in the movie as it the more somber of the three, better fitting what's happening, the mood of the scene. Now this is due to the singers themselves, their individual strengths and weaknesses more so then their gender. Which at the end of the day, that is my stance on the matter for music. Again, I listen for the melody, I listen for all the tracks working together, including the vocal track.

These are the reasons why I don't particularly care about the gender of the character or singer, but instead of the strengths and weaknesses of them. How they work in the story, how their musical talent is ect. Its the same as my stance on people as a whole. I don't care about your gender, where you come from, what you believe in, I care about your actions, how you behave when you speak to me in some way/ shape or form. That's enough from me, this is very much a improv post, but next week is still The Legend Reborn.

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