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The_Chosen_Rule

Male/Female Perspective on WoT Characters

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I've been wondering for quite a while about the difference in male and female reader perspective/empathy for the male and female characters in WoT. Obviously, one of the major themes of this work is the dichotomy of the male and female halves of a whole. It seems to me, RJ (and Brandon to a slightly lesser extent) did a wonderful job illustrating this theme. Both male and female viewpoints seem perfectly reasonable to the one holding them...however, I find myself agreeing with one and finding the other contemptuous. I wonder if this is the case among other fans, too.

 

As a man, I find myself more often than not empathizing with the male characters in the story while viewing the female characters as ignorant/stubborn/willful/stupid/etc. I see the male POV scenes as far more reasonable than the female POV scenes, both in the POV character's actions AND their understanding of characters of the opposite gender. I RELATE to Rand and Mat and Perrin (ALL the male characters, really) in a far deeper way than I do with their female counterparts. This hasn't always been the case for me in various books...eg, Mara Jade in the Star Wars EU and Elora Dannan in the Shadow series just to name a couple.

 

My question then is this: Do female readers (by and large) have the same empathy toward the female characters and disgust for the ignorance of males in the series? Do other male readers feel like I do?

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I certainly see why any reader would feel this way. I also think that each reader needs to remember that the majority of the main characters are young adults, raised in sheltered environments taking very traditional views on relations (keeping it PG). The society they live in gives them no hint at how to deal with the emotional side of adult situations. RJ seems to have kept certain reactions as blanket responses during scenes of gender relations (braid pulling, skirt smoothing, etc...) not to mention each sex viewing the other as frustrating and irritating. These reactions can (and are) correct many times, but RJ does seem to have fallen into a rut with them and didn't get out of it until late in the series (some no doubt would argue that he never got out of that rut).

 

In my opinion, RJ is still a master storyteller. His mastery (also IMO) lies in forcing emotional reactions from his readers, and creating a deep, very rich and believable world for his story. Unfortunately (and ironically), strength in storytelling does not necessarily also mean mastery of all his characters' emotional reactions.

 

This is a main reason that I have such a difficult time liking some of the female heroines, even though on the surface of the story they should have been likable or even lovable.

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Both genders in WoT are completely and equally clueless in understanding the opposite one. It's a bit annoying, but I don't take it really seriously and consider a lot of it to be exaggerated intentionally for comic effect.

 

In terms of being able to relate to characters, their gender doesn't really matter to me.

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Allow me to start by saying that we will not have arguments about the merits (or lack thereof) of certain characters here. Feel free to state your case and discuss how it relates to your (or others') gender, but that's all.

 

/mod hat off

 

Fair disclosure: I'm a man. Now, I always had a liking to Rand and (mainly since TDR) Mat. Perrin always bored me a little, but I never resented him per se. The ladies are a different matter. While I've taken quite easily to (by order of presentation in the books) Moiraine, Min, Elayne, Verin, Leane, Siuan and co., I started out disliking both Nynaeve and Egwene. With the former, it was a matter of age, I think. I was a teenager at the time; now that I'm older, I really do like her (incidentally, she's one of the few characters whose voice -- and I do mean voice, rather than motivations and self -- I feel Brandon got right). With Egwene I think it's more a matter of her initial lack of maturity. I took to her around the time she became Amyrlin, but now I quite enjoy her character even before that.

I still rather dislike Faile, but then I don't like Gawyn any better, so there you have it.

 

If it's villains we're thinking of, I have to say I think the female FS and DF are much more interesting, with the sole exception of Ishamael. In this case, however, I think that's just how RJ wrote them. The men are much less complex and 3-dimensional, if you know what I mean.

 

What do y'all think? Is my gender reflected in my preferences? I'm not sure, but if I had to guess, I'd say perhaps I'm easier on the women because I kind'a fancy some aspects of their personality (I guess you could say looks as well, but as I make my own mind how to visualize them, that's kind of the same thing, really).

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As a male, I think I've had no difference between relating to female characters and male characters. That being said, sometimes I do feel that the authors kindof stress that whole gender thing too much, that whole men/women will always gossip has been repeated a bit too much for my taste.

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Allow me to start by saying that we will not have arguments about the merits (or lack thereof) of certain characters here. Feel free to state your case and discuss how it relates to your (or others') gender, but that's all.

 

/mod hat off

 

Most definitely...I'm far more interested in a discussion regarding attitudes towards the genders in a general way...nothing about any specific characters. I want to see how people feel about the characters based on their own gender perspective.

 

...that whole men/women will always gossip has been repeated a bit too much for my taste.

 

I couldn't agree more...

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Okay, to add a female opinion, though I can't really say I like the concept of "male opinion" and "female opinion" since I think there are probably stronger defining characteristics to all of us than raw gender.

 

I really didn't have a gender split in terms of how I related to the characters at all. For example, I found that I emphasized with Mat, Perin and Egwnene strongly, but found Nynaeve and Elayne annoying. IT comes down to my perceptions of the personalities of the characters - the 3 I highlighted tend to do more thinking ahead of time, and less charging in like an Elayne in a Black Agah nest.

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Guest PiotrekS

I personally find myself liking and relating to both male and female characters. My fauvorite ones are Rand, Aviendha, Nynaeve, Mat, Siuan, Moiraine and Cadsuane. It seems to me WOT offers maybe more interesting and varied female than male characters outside of the strict main cast. You have such colorful and controversial characters as Cadsuane, Lanfear or Siuan. Male characters apart from such great crazy types as Rand or Mat are more alike - responsible, rational leaders like Lan, Tam al'Thor, Bryne, Ituralde, Agelmar, Galad. Gawyn is different, but in a bad way :dry: It seems to me that there is too little individuality to some male characters which makes some romances feel flat (e.g. Lan-Nynaeve or Siuan-Bryne - we see mainly woman's emotions).

 

I don't like the constant sex games the male and female characters play and the never-ending repeating that men and women can't understand each other. While I believe in some gender differences and like the idea of men and women complementing each other, but I think RJ took it too far. The characters are attracted to each other, but men and women don't really share any deeper understanding of each other in the books.Notable exception - Rand and Min.

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While conflicts tend to align to gender, I am more annoyed by the soap opera phenomenon of "people not talking to each other creating tons of unecessary trouble". The back and forth between genders is in my opinion just a disguise for this trope.

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I'm female (Age 22, and started reading Wheel of Time aged 16, if that's any help, either).

 

I definitely agree with a lot of others, in that I find the total inability of men and women to understand each other, despite the fact that, by and large, they don't come across as massively different. Women sniff and straighten their skirts more. Of course, there are other differences, but still...

 

I definitely agree with whoever said that the female Forsaken tend to be more interesting than the males- I don't know if that was because there were initially more males than females, so characterisation of all the males was left to one side a little?

 

That aside, I don't think there's a massive difference between how I view males and females. I love Mat, and I'm quite fond of Perrin. I love Nynaeve, and Faile. I loathe Egwene and Gawyn. Rand and Elayne both annoy me at various times in the story (Rand moreso overall, but Elayne's increasingly annoying me in the later books). Galad's grown on me over the series, as has Cadsuane. Lan's gone downhill in my estimation. I used to like Min, now find her kind of dull.

 

Basically, I guess what I'm trying to say is that there's male and female characters in pretty much every category of my esteem, from high to low. I can definitely see how the overwhelming female perspective of men being woolheads who need to do what they're told is grating, but we do see some of their opinions change for the better over the series, so in some ways, I'm willing to write that off as the product of their society. The same as I try very hard to accept that Rand's "Women list" is a result partially of his upbringing, and partially of going mad. But it's hard, sometimes, particularly when its a viewpoint that irritates you.

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I'm a girl, and I pretty much do agree that there is gender miscommunication that goes on in the series. The women, especially Egwene, Nynaeve, and Elayne in the beginning, and Aes Sedai in general, try to keep everything to themselves and conspire on how best to manipulate the men. I found that almost every female in the series shares some of the same bad traits-the whole attitude about keeping information to themselves and putting men down, not believing that they too have brains and can think.

 

This is not to say that I did not relate at all to the girls-in fact, I really connected with Nynaeve as she grew up a bit later on, appreciated the character of Birgitte (whose attitude was refreshing in comparison to others), and respected Moiraine. The Aiel Wise Ones too were a nice example of people who respected the men in their lives, while occupying leadership positions themselves. In general though, the women need to get over the belief that the men can't think and that sometimes they make the choices they do for good reasons.

 

As far as the male characters, well, Rand is the only one I really connected with. He was my favorite character the entire series and I cheered for him to succeed above all others. I never really got the Mat hype, was largely apathetic to Lan, and Perrin imo is a bit of a doofus. I can understand that he fears losing himself to the books for a few books, but come on! He's had this ability since book 1 and yet in TOM we see him whining and worrying about the same old issue that he should have dealt with by now. I think that the men do give women more respect than they perhaps deserve given some of their behavior.

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I'm a girl, and I pretty much do agree that there is gender miscommunication that goes on in the series. The women, especially Egwene, Nynaeve, and Elayne in the beginning, and Aes Sedai in general, try to keep everything to themselves and conspire on how best to manipulate the men. I found that almost every female in the series shares some of the same bad traits-the whole attitude about keeping information to themselves and putting men down, not believing that they too have brains and can think.

 

This is not to say that I did not relate at all to the girls-in fact, I really connected with Nynaeve as she grew up a bit later on, appreciated the character of Birgitte (whose attitude was refreshing in comparison to others), and respected Moiraine. The Aiel Wise Ones too were a nice example of people who respected the men in their lives, while occupying leadership positions themselves. In general though, the women need to get over the belief that the men can't think and that sometimes they make the choices they do for good reasons.

 

As far as the male characters, well, Rand is the only one I really connected with. He was my favorite character the entire series and I cheered for him to succeed above all others. I never really got the Mat hype, was largely apathetic to Lan, and Perrin imo is a bit of a doofus. I can understand that he fears losing himself to the books for a few books, but come on! He's had this ability since book 1 and yet in TOM we see him whining and worrying about the same old issue that he should have dealt with by now. I think that the men do give women more respect than they perhaps deserve given some of their behavior.

 

I don't know... There is a very dangerous posibility that he could lose himself to the books you know.

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I am female, and I have throughout the series found the male characters far more sympathetic, with the exception of Min.

 

When I first started to read, around when I was twelve, this was taken to an extreme, to the point where I hated reading any chapter which dealt with any of the main female characters excluding Min. I'm a bit of a tomboy though, and my best friends have always been boys.

 

Later on during re-reads I found Egwene a bit less grating, and Nynaeve and Moiraine significantly less grating. I still find it hard to sympathize with them though, much preferring plots that deal with Rand, or Mat. I tend to prefer the male characters significantly, and find the exaggerated "Women think men a brainless" and "Men think women are hopelessly confusing" to be irritating. I'm engaged, and myself and my fiance 'got' each other right from the beginning, and have never had the... weirdness R.J. describes.

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I'm a man. They only female characters I didn't like were Nyn, Eggy, and Elayne. Nyn is one of my favorites now tGS Egwene was awesome, ToM Egwene is awful. I did think Faile dragged Perrin down for a while but I can understand why she was how she was so I couldn't hate here. Elayne has always been a whiny, prissy, know-it-all to me.

 

I always liked the Aiel, men or women, and in the later books cheered more for the Red Ajah then the Blue (The Reds seemed more willing to embrace the changing world then other Ajahs)

 

My favorite women, all in the top ten for favorite characters, are Tuon, Avi, and Bridgette.

 

I like most of the male/female romantic relationships. From Gaul and Chiads "I despise you...now I can't live without you" to Thom and Mo's secret lovers aspect. Never like the Egwene and Gwayne relationship(don't need to go into why) or Rand and Elayne (I hate her that much).

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I am female, and I have throughout the series found the male characters far more sympathetic, with the exception of Min.

 

When I first started to read, around when I was twelve, this was taken to an extreme, to the point where I hated reading any chapter which dealt with any of the main female characters excluding Min. I'm a bit of a tomboy though, and my best friends have always been boys.

 

Wow, you're really similar to me. I was twelve when I started the series as well, and I remember that whenever I got to one of the girls' chapters I would flip ahead to see how many pages I had to endure before getting back to the boys. :tongue:

 

I'm female, and I've always sympathized with the males more. Rand and Mat have always been my favorite characters, and I love Lan, although I've definitely lost interest in him over the past two books. Honestly, I can only think of two or three male characters that I really hate, while my hate list for the girls is much, much longer. The only female characters that I really like are Moiraine and Birgitte. I've gained some respect for Egwene as well, although I don't think I'll ever like her too much.

 

I definitely think that RJ exaggerates the rift between the genders a bit too much. I certainly don't spend my time thinking about how men are idiots, and they aren't all that hard to relate to for me. Honestly, I sometimes find myself preferring to spend time with boys because of how stupid some of the girls I know are.

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Guest PiotrekS

Ignoring everything said in this thread, I must say that, as a male, Berelain sounds like someone I'd like to meet.

 

Wish fulfillment is one of the important fuctions of fantasy literature. I share your sentiment, Sir :biggrin:

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Ignoring everything said in this thread, I must say that, as a male, Berelain sounds like someone I'd like to meet.

 

Not me. Berelain seems to be the sort of scheming, manipulative person I'd work hard to avoid. Though in fairness she seems a different person around Rhuarc and other Aiel.

 

My favorite characters are Perrin, Mat, and Egwene, with Nynaeve and Rand following closely. I guess I have a soft spot for the original Emond's Fielders :tongue:

Edited by wintermute

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My favorite characters are Perrin, Mat, and Egwene, with Nynaeve and Rand following closely. I guess I have a soft spot for the original Emond's Fielders

 

I agree the originals are the best but Rand is the one I enjoy the most.

 

And I agree with the earlier post about wanting to meet Berelain, but probably wouldn't bring her home to meet the folks :tongue:

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I found myself empathizing with both the male and female characters of the story. If there was anything that could tip the balance, it would be that I found the cluelessness of the men towards women to be humorous while the stubbornness of the females in regards to men to be humorous at times and endearingly frustrating at others. I tended to be able to empathize with the characters on their actions regardless of gender, even if I disagree with them.

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