November 17th, 2009

Carrie Now

Writing Cliches Continued: The Character

The Evil Other Woman or the Beyotch Cheerleader Girl

The Evil Other Woman (E.O.W.) and/or the Beyotch Cheerleader Girl shows up in so many books, both romantic and otherwise, adult and young adult, and even… (ahem) sometimes picture books.
You know her: She is beautiful. She usually has had some sort of past relationship with the heroine’s love interest. She is not nice. She is a meanie head, basically. She has cat claws and laser eyes. She hates our good girl heroine with a passion that can only be equaled to the spawn of Satan.
But that’s not why we’re worried about her.
Nope. As writers, we are worried about her because she is typical.
Because she is typical she is boring.

Do not panic! Even if you have a Beyotch Cheerleader Girl or Evil Other Woman, she doesn’t have to be boring. She can be cool. Sometimes her evil could be tampered down. She might take care of kittens or do something else altruistic. We could understand her evil a little better: Maybe she was once run over by a Ford Pinto?
This is a Ford Pinto. Wouldn't you be evil if it ran into you? Yes, I think you would.

We could make her sympathetic. We could make her three-dimensional and human. We could also use the cliché of her to make a statement, and make both a story and a character that is much more complex than we originally thought.

*On a side note, I think it’s interesting how people really REALLY hate the evil other woman who most of the time is just an assertive woman strongly going after her wants. What does it say about our society that we aren’t cool with that?
The Evil Ex-Girlfriend is part of this whole category of cliché.
The Evil Ex-Boyfriend, though less often used, is often turned into the Bland Ex-Boyfriend in Jennifer Aniston movies, which is interesting too I think.

The roots of the Evil Other Woman (Beyotch Cheerleader Girl) are deep and ingrainted in Western Culture. For proof look at the fairy tales we were raised on or the Disney movies.

This is not from a Disney movie.

In Cinderella the stepmother (father’s new other woman) and step sisters (early versions of the beyotch cheerleader) are terrifying and monsterous to the meek heroine. In Hansel and Gretel, the old woman who lives alone is terrifying to the children even before she decides to eat them. Women who are older. Women who have some power be it magic (Hansel and Gretel, The Little Mermaid ), sexual (Cinderella) or status (Bring it On, etc) are almost always “other” or “beyotches” or “evil.”
As writers we have to always be cognizant of how those clichés may or may not be perpetuated in our own stories, and think about why we are there. We have to have villains, obviously. Not every story should have the central conflict be woman against nature, or man against self. It’s just that as we create, we should strive to create fully, move against the clichés and towards a better, bigger truth. We deserve that as writers, and our readers certainly deserve that too.

So, what do you think? Seen any E.O.W’s or B.C.G’s in movies or books? Seen a lot of them? Why do you think that is? What can we do to avoid it?
-CJ