Subversive heroines. Much has been said about your Buffys and Anitas–you know, the ass-kicking-vampire-hunting-zombie-slaying types of paranormal romance and/or science fiction romance–yet for all their strength and cunning, no one has included a subversive heroine in a straight (and by straight I don’t mean the inverse of gay) romance. As far as subversion goes, a romance heroine can be a courtesan, a "fallen woman," or go as far as having a smart-mouth, but she can’t possess the Scarlett O’Hara bitch gene.
I don’t know about you, but I don’t mind a bit of bitch. All women, ALL women are capable of doing and have most certainly, at some point in their life, done bitch.
Don’t lie. You know you have.
So where’s the rationale behind the idea a romance heroine can’t be a bitch? If, as some romance scholars (Kleypas, Kinsale, Juhasz) theorise, many female romance readers identify with the heroine (be it a heroine in a paranormal, historical or contemporary romance), and if those females can recognise they’re more likely to be a bitch than a courtesan, why isn’t there a bitch heroine?
Beyond Heaving Bosoms offers a reason. For the reader to accept the heroine, Sarah Wendell & Candy Tan, those wonderful Smart Bitches authors, suggest the romance heroine has to be a "perfectly nice, vanilla creation of moderation." Which means no reader wants to read about nasty heroine anymore than she wants to read about a heroine cutting off someone’s head because that’s just not nice, proper girly behaviour and…
Oh, wait. They do want to read about the heroine cutting off someone’s head! Hello? Anita Blake
Ok, so bitch = bad and scary ass-kicker beheading a vampire = good.
Excuse me, where’s the nice, vanilla creation of moderation in that? Is this kind of strong, does-not-always-play-nice heroine reserved for Science Fiction romance and Paranormal romance subgenres? Anything that shows a woman being bitchy and moody to those around her, or acting manipulative or selfish in the least bit because she’s a sexually-frustrated single parent dealing with a moody 15 year old son, a craptacular dead-end job, and a car that just died can exist only in the realm of Sci-Fi and Paranormal?
Maybe the issue is Vanilla. Used the way it is above it means "conventional, of ordinary sexual preferences." In other words, boring. However the true etymology of vanilla comes from the spanish name for the spice, vainilla, which is the diminutive of vina, sheath, vagina.
Now I bet all of you will look at vanilla ice cream in a new way, won’t you? And if I’m really lucky, romance writers will look a the bitch in a new way.
Just maybe, someday soon, The Bitch heroine will have her day.