Many people automatically conclude that a female lead character in any story is a Heroine, but I can prove that this assumption is inaccurate.
For a few years now, I’ve been saying that Masculine doesn’t equal Male and Feminine doesn’t equal Female when it comes to the Hero’s and Heroine’s Journeys. Masculine and Feminine are energy, not gender.
Just because you put Carol Danvers in a superhero suit or place a lightsaber in Rey’s hand or make Elsa the most badass Disney Princess ever [ding: Merida], it doesn’t make them Heroines on a Heroine’s Journey.
Because they’re not. Not one of those three characters is a Heroine on a Heroine’s Journey. They are all Heroes on Hero’s Journeys and all for the same, very specific reason:
They are all disconnected from their emotions.
That is the primary difference between Heroines and Heroes. Heroes are almost always stuck in an emotionless “Normal Existence” whereas Heroines will always have their emotions intact because they always live by their heart and their passion.
This is why you can have Female Heroes and Male Heroines: what matters is their emotional state, not their gender.
Carol Danvers is completely and purposely disconnected from her emotions. Her “birth” scene as Captain Marvel is a beautiful and perfect – in Hero’s Journey terms – “Belly of the Whale/Birth of the Hero” moment when she finally breaks her emotional constraints.
Rey is living on a desert planet and is literally stuck counting the days she has been there waiting for her parents to come back and get her. She is emotionally flat and disconnected from her femininity by her need to focus on survival.
Elsa is literally told, by her rather foolish father, to “conceal don’t feel”. She wears gloves to prevent physically connecting with anything or anyone and she exists in a cold, lonely and depressed environment.
So, step one – and it’s really the only step that matters – to writing a proper Female Heroine is to leave her emotions – the core of her femininity – intact.
Now, perhaps you’re female and you’re upset with me for suggesting that these female characters are Heroes and not Heroines. Perhaps you relate to them in some way. And if that’s the case then it’s possible that you don’t relate to the character as much as you relate to the Trauma that cut them off from their emotions.
Look, I heavily relate to Todd 3465 in the movie, Soldier, but I’m definitely not a military man with PTSD. I’m a man who, as a child, was indoctrinated into a system of belief that emotionally cut me off from regular society. It’s Todd’s trauma and anti-social behaviour that I relate to, not the life experience.
Trauma is the greatest threat to Heroine Potential, but we also don’t get Heroes or Heroines without some degree of it. Each of the aforementioned female characters absolutely had Heroine Potential that was killed by Trauma and none of them had proper guidance to prevent their emotional shutdown.
That happens to far too many of us in real life as well. Now, Trauma and how it affects our Hero’s and Heroine’s Journeys is way too large a subject to cover in this video, so let’s back up a bit a look at life before Trauma.
Let’s look at the fact that we were all children at one point and childhood is when Heroine Potential is strongest. Our emotions are intact, our wonder of the world is intact and our wills tend to be stronger as we probably haven’t been fully programmed by our environment and peers. This is why it’s pretty easy to create Female Heroines out of children.
Movies such as Encanto and Turning Red have proved this fairly well – I don’t know why I’m picking only Disney movies today, but I’ll go with it. Both films highlight young girls who are opening up to their emotions and Inner Rebels. Both girls also have overbearing mother figures – mother figures who are shut down from their emotions – once again, Female characters who are Hero archetypes.
That’s something to keep in mind as well – just because you’re writing a Heroine’s Journey, it doesn’t mean that the Hero can’t show up. In fact, the opposite is true – the Hero has to show up because the Heroine and Hero are paired in the Dance. They need each other.
The Heroine needs the Hero’s Masculine energy to act and to move forward and to set boundaries.
The Hero needs the Heroine’s Feminine energy to deal with trauma and to reignite their emotional centre.
Going back to our original examples of Carol Danvers, Rey and Elsa, we can see that each of these Female Heroes had a Feminine counterpart: Carol had her friend, Maria. Rey had her nemesis, Kylo Ren – male, but Feminine none-the-less. And Elsa, of course, had her fun-loving sister, Anna.
So, that’s the other key-ingredient to creating a proper, Female Heroine: always make certain there is an emotionally damaged Hero for her to interact with. Someone who teaches her the way of the world, while she teaches him the way of the heart.
Without the Heroine, the Hero will be locked in a never ending Road of Trials – angry at the world, fighting for the sake of fighting, unable to come to terms with his trauma and never able to be At One or at peace.
Without the Hero, the Heroine will become stuck searching for Purpose while others use her for her abilities and slowly drain the Feminine energy out of her. She’ll begin to identify with what she does, she will never set boundaries and never overcome the person or thing that controls her.
It’s only together that the Hero and Heroine can work towards integrating the best attributes of each other into their being and ultimately become their best and highest Self.