Friday, December 3, 2010

Gender Issues

Okay, confluence of articles in the paper, one about the new Harry Potter movie and another about the decline of the popularity of princess movies, got me thinking about the differences in boys' and girls' reading habits. I started wondering if the Harry Potter series would have been as successful with a female main character.

I’m sure this isn’t an original observation, but I’m curious to know what you, my cyber friends, think. I would say "Of course it would be as popular!" because face it, they’re amazing books. But part of me wonders if sales wouldn’t be just a little lower or if maybe the movies wouldn’t be as popular because males couldn’t connect to a female main character.

I’ve read (damn, I can’t remember where!) that girls have no trouble reading books with male main characters but boys usually shy away from books with female leads. Granted, some of that comes from the romance angles often associated with female characters (I don’t think a lot of teenage boys read Twilight), but would a fantasy adventure starring a girl attract male readers?

This I don’t know. So writer friends, are you writing a male or female MC? Do you think this affects your story or, more importantly, how your story is perceived?


  1. Ack! No, no, no! I can't even begin to follow where this road of thought leaves. Traditionally, sci-fi is read more by men (although I think this is changing with soft sci-fi mixes), and my MC is female.

    I really hope that won't make a difference. There is a strong male lead to go along with her, maybe that's good enough?

  2. Not only did Harry Potter have to be male for the great success of this series but Joann Rowling had to become JK!

  3. As a former teacher and the mother of two boys, I hate the idea of "boy books". It implies there are lots of books boys don't relate to. As much as I hate this, though, it's pretty true.

    I work hard to read a variety of things to my sons and did the same in my classroom. I remember one guy ordering the Little House series from a book order and carrying it home under his jacket.

  4. What a thought provoking post. Sadly I think you are right about the Harry Potter books. I doubt if it would have got quite as many boys reading with a female protagonist.

    Having said that Phillip Pullman came up with the brilliant main character of Lyra Belacqua for the breathtaking 'His Dark Materials' trilogy and happily it doesn't seem to have stopped people reading them. I think making the main character a young, albeit tomboyish girl (like Lyra) gives the books an additional dimension that would have been missing with a boy leading the story.

  5. I think adult males will read stories with a female lead. As to boys ... maybe. They do gravitate toward different things than girls though. Even if the MC isn't human. :)

  6. Sadly, I believe it does. I think it's less likely a boy will pick up a book with a girl MC than vice versa. I prefer writing girls MC, but I have a fantasy story I plan to write next year which will have a teen boy MC. I'm aiming for the boy readers as well as the girls... just makes more sense.

  7. Charity: I know. I don't like it either. It's just something I wonder about because boys are looked down upon so much for doing anything "girly."

    Karen: I wonder who came up with the idea for initials?

    Caroline: That's good. I hope they never put a book under their jackets because they're embarrassed!

    David: There are a lot more females for adult males to read, although they're more action oriented (think Lyra or Janet Evanovich's Stephanie Plum).

    M Pax: It's just interesting that girls will read male MC's (human or not). And you're right. Males and females do have different tastes.

    PK: I did pretty much the same thing :)


Please validate me.