T Nation

Princesses, White Knights & Superheros


Three literary character groups that seem to show up in these threads, whether mentioned directly or not. I thought it might be interesting to flesh out these characters - often a big part of childhood - to see if they have a needed role to play in today's society.

Princesses - I see "Princess" on clothes, from onesies for infants to shirts/sweats for full grown women. Yet, I do not see anything positive about the reference. Female characters that are judged by their look, and live with a sense of entitlement bestowed on them for who./what they are and not for anything they have accomplished. I see it reincarnated today as the celebrity who is famous for being a celebrity. And at the same time, it seems the idea of princess is thrown at little girls. There is an element to the princess that requires that the women needs to be saved by the...

White Knights - chivalrous men who come to the aid of princesses. Although supposedly good role models for young men, it rely on the helpless and needy female (princess) and assumes that the knights opinion of what is best is the only suitable solution. Guys are taught to fix things, and when in combination with princesses, that women need to be saved.

Then there are superheros, which seem to be very popular today. Are these the new white knights or something different? From what I can tell, and I am no expert by any means, superheros are always distant from others, those who are weaker and blind to the danger around them. Does that promote the need to save, as does the white knight? Does that promote the viewing of commoners as weak sheeple?


well, how do you explain the increase in popularity of women like Lara Croft, or Xena or Electra or the new superhero movie coming out based on Wonder Woman? And what about the jump in popularity of pseudo-males like Justin Bieber or Zac Efron, whoever the fuck they are. I would say that the idea of the "masculine" man in movies, such as Clint Eastwood or Steve McQueen is dying. Aside from guys like Russell Crowe or MAYBE Brad Pitt and a couple others, how are the leading men of Hollywood portrayed now and who are they? They're guys like Seth Rogan or Jake Gyllenhaal, dumpy, fat guys or guys who only appear masculine because they star in so many romantic comedies where they are surrounded by women.

As far as superheroes go, it's only natural that superheroes find their way into mainstream pop culture more and more. Movies like Spiderman and Batman Begins rekindled that love for the hero, but DC and Marvel aready have the heroes ready to go, complete with backstory and villains. So Hollywood, which is already showing its utter lack of creativity by constantly churning out horrid remakes of movies, doesn't have to look far and hard for the next great hero; they're already there. There's always been a need for heroes in literature, movies and so on. But in this day and age it's so much easier to just go with what we know will work by regurgitating the same heroes that have been popular for 40, 50, 60 years, like Spiderman and now the Green Lantern, Thor, the Green Hornet, Ironman etc etc.


I hate the "princess" concept. And while I refer to myself as "Princess PMPM" in my log from time to time, it's completely tongue in cheek.

A princess is a woman who relies on a man for her purpose and identity. And when she finds the right man, everything in her life will be perfect. I hate that passivity.


I think:
Girls naturally want to be pretty and important to others. Sometimes they go overboard and become attention whores

Guys want to put their mark on things. Whether it's saving someone, fixing something, or getting back at someone.

It's nice to daydream every once in awhile. Princesses and Knights/Superheroes are pretty much what we would like to be if we could write the story of our lives.

99% of people are weak and cowardice so cartoons are somewhat accurate.


My white knight is really a pastry chef. Cake!


college girls with fake tits and daddy issues are always in short supply of white knights

boo yah!


The White Knight idea is cool with me. As is the Superhero concept. The Princess concept? Not my problem.


Yeah I feel the same way. Sometimes I wonder if it's fair to be hard on princesses when they are only behaving how they've been told to behave and have been rewarded for but on the other hand I like to think I managed to get through life without being a princess so just following what you've been taught is just plain lazy and sad.


Wol, apparently the single click concept is lost on you however.



Maybe Lara Croft et al. popularity is a reaction to the princess.
Maybe male Superheros popularity is a reaction to Justin Bieber or Zac Efron
Extremes trying to cancel the other out.


I like the thoughts you posed here.

I think your white night analogy is a bit dated though. Instead, I think todays' "everyman" isn't being raised or taught to fix things. He's being told that his problems and issues and fears are valid, and it's ok to be vocal about them.

In short, White nights are becoming princesses.

I grew up with the ideals of "you aint that special" and "get to work" drilled into me, and I think that's made me a little more level headed than say the kid whose been told his whole life that he's special and deserves preferential treatment (being spoiled). That, is the personality that falls pretty hard when it comes time to have to do real work, compete for real status/positions, and get laid.


My friend always tells me I have a "White Knight" complex.

Shes likely right. I cant really deny it. It hasn't served me wrong yet.


I wonder if the undersized actors (still with screams of steroids) and use of CGI is contributing to the idea that large muscles are freakish and in some ways anti-normal. Given that many superheroes could be described in their body type as hyper-masculine (the same term applied to bodybuilders) they do not fit in well with the current anti-masculine environment. I think their popularity in movies is because they address the need for a masculine hero (and as replacement for White Knights as BradTGIF suggests). Yet, at the same time they impossible as something to be attained outside of strange accidents/circumstances/powers thrust upon you - making their body-types unattainable as well.


At the risk of sounding uber nerdy and sympathetic to hipsters:

I think Scott Pilgrim bridges the gap you mentioned to a degree.


True. But isn't it the same with hyper-females? The model that we have of ideal female face and body-type is also pretty unreal and mostly unobtainable (unless you have plenty of money to spend on surgery, clothes, and cosmetics). Flesh and blood won't cut it. The ladies on this site work hard and look great, of course, but even strong, attractive women don't fit the barbie doll/porn star standard of general public.

How does that fit into the trend of feminising?




I've never understood the female superhero thing. Those types of characters don't even make it wiggle.


As interesting as the idea behind this thread, the best part was Wol dropping Project Pat on it.


I think you are right that Barbie might be a representation of the hyper-feminine. The fact that it is hyper-feminine suggests it is unattainable. However, it seems that plastic surgery and dieting has become so mainstream that using it to attain a Barbieques figure is fine. Compared to men using work to obtain more masculine (i.e. muscular) builds there is something currently deviant about that behavior. That in itself might be reflective of the changing definition of what is "masculine" and especially the ideal masculine form. In some ways the Barbie ideal will require a masculine ideal to counterbalance it, however, as Ken demonstrated, it looks towards a physiology that is representative of wealth (the toned body) as opposed to one more representative of manual labor (the muscular body).

I am not sure I would agree that the trend is necessarily towards feminizing but rather the erasure of the masculine. Or to put it another way, a trend in broadening the acceptable behavior/endeavors of women by moving into areas/behaviors that have typically been identified as masculine, therefore reducing/eliminating the need of the masculine, and thus not exploring, expanding or even consider the masculine. Or more succinctly, the focus is one women, and to maintain that focus, culture reduces or co-opt the masculine.

That said, there is a counter-trend to reinforce 'traditional' gender roles. This is were I think the Princess trend comes in for women. But I am not sure what is defining men at this point.