To begin talking about this issue, let me set a scene for you. Let’s say you’ve been petrified and are lying in the Hospital Wing, but as is mentioned later in the storyline, you can see and hear what’s going on. Your boyfriend comes in and gets a musical number while you just lie there. When he’s finished, he’s trying to figure out how to save you, and someone else comes in. A guy. The guy you rejected six years ago, but who continues to hit on you constantly. He talks to your boyfriend. They come to an arrangement: if the one you rejected helps your boyfriend save you, they can both date you.
“But wait!” you want to yell. “What the hell is this? What about what I want?” But you can’t say anything, because you’ve been petrified. Your boyfriend made the choice for you, and what you want doesn’t matter.
I’m sure those of you who’ve seen AVPSY remember this scene. (Although I made up the parts about what Hermione was thinking, obviously.) Well, it was the last straw for me. I could handle February, and Holy Musical B@man. But watching a character who I used to idolize, a character who many girls and women identify with, one of best female characters in mainstream literature, be treated like this? It was too much. What she wanted wasn’t relevant to the scene, and nobody ever even suggested that that wasn’t okay.
There are no female writers for Team Starkid, which is probably why they didn’t think about this. How are Nick and Matt Lang supposed to know how much Hermione has meant to so many of us? How are they supposed to know that a smart girl who doesn’t take shit and isn’t presented as undesirable is a rarity, and one that you don’t mess with? This objectification of Hermione takes all she’s done as a character for so many women, and says that none of that is as important as a plot move that is nonsensical at best. This is why I get upset when the writers of TV shows and movies are exclusively male. It’s not because I don’t think men can write good stories. It’s because they aren’t going to recognize the importance of characters like Hermione.
In the process of writing this, I thought a lot about things that have bugged me about Starkid musicals. First of all, did anyone notice that Holy Musical B@man didn’t pass the Bechdel Test? Yikes! (For those of y’all who don’t know, for something to pass the Bechdel Test, it needs to pass three sets of criteria: 1. There are at least two named female characters, 2. They talk to each other at some point, 3. About something other than a guy.)
Another important thing to acknowledge is that many of the female characters seem significantly flatter than the male ones. It’s hard to notice at first, because everyone’s set up as a caricature, especially in the parody musicals. But the male characters break out of that; Harry and Voldemort both sing several songs that remind us of their personhood, and Ron gets Sidekick and the lead in Voldemort is Going Down. And while Hermione gets Coolest Girl, that’s one of only four female solos in all of Starkid productions. (I counted—see end of essay for list.) Ron and Harry develop as characters, and Batman and Superman work out their differences. Meanwhile, Ginny and Hermione are mostly there for laugh value, especially Ginny, who in the musicals is one of the most poorly written characters I’ve ever laid eyes on.
The original musicals do a little better. Sure, we get stuck with February and Tiffany, but in Me and My Dick, Sally has almost as large a role as Joey, and Starship’s Taz is amazing. But even with that in mind, they do fall short. Yes, Taz is kickass, but she doesn’t have much personality beyond that surface, and she certainly doesn’t get her own story arc. Bug gets a story arc. Commander Up gets a story arc. Taz, who is arguably at least as important as Up, is there to provide a sort of intense energy. The smartest character, Specs, is also a girl, but they minimalize her so much that I didn’t realize that at first. Really, would it be that hard to have a character be smart and also noticeably female?
Sally gets a storyline, but doesn’t have much personality besides being unpopular and self-conscious. Of the women in Me and My Dick, Miss Cooter is the character who holds most true, although I do think it’s funny to say that Team Starkid’s best female character is a vagina. Still, she’s sweet, and strong, and has her own story arc that involves her fighting for her love interest. Definite props to Miss Cooter. I’ll also say that while Me and My Dick doesn’t have any solos sung by women, it only has one solo sung by a man (Listen to Your Heart.) Most of the songs are duets, and there ARE duets in which both characters are female. (For the purposes of this, I’m counting the vaginas as female, even though two are played by men.)
Now, I suppose there are those of you that have been reading this thinking, “But what about Little White Lie?” The answer to that question is, “Yes! Little White Lie!” I haven’t been counting that as one of Team Starkid’s musicals, because it a) was written pre-Starkid, and b) because it isn’t a musical in the strictest sense of the word. I think Little White Lie does a decent job, although that on its own is a little depressing, since that means they’ve gone downhill in terms of female representation. I’d argue that Tanya is a pretty flat character, but they did a decent job writing Sami. She, more than many of their characters, seems like girls I know.
What I’m trying to say here isn’t that Team Starkid is bad. I wouldn’t have a tumblr dedicated to them if that was what I thought. What I’m trying to say is that I don’t think a team of all male writers are the best people to be writing female characters in general, and that these writers in particular make mistakes that I find hurtful. There are times when I actively don’t want to watch their musicals because I’m not feeling up to having to build up a thick skin just to get through them. Nick and Matt Lang (and Eric Kahn Gale, who’s worked with them on several of the projects) are brilliant writers, and I wish they’d channel that to work on fleshing out their female characters. While I’m excited about Twisted, I’d be even more excited if they parodied a Disney Princess film, or The Hunger Games. I wish they’d think more about female characters, and I wish they’d remember that teenage girls make up the majority of their audience, so maybe they should cater to us a little more by giving us girls like us.
Here’s to hoping that in the future, they can also give us the female characters who we can look up to. They’ve got amazing actresses that to work with. Here’s to hoping that they give them a chance to play characters worthy of their ability.
Now, I want to hear what you think. If you reblog this and add a response, positive or negative, I’ll read it. (Unless you’re clearly being a troll or are incredibly rude.) You are also welcome to send me asks telling me what your opinion is.
I look forward to hearing from you.
Solos Sung by Male Characters:
· Harry’s song about Ginny/Cho (AVPM)
· Hey Dragon (AVPM)
· Listen to Your Heart (MAMD, mostly solo with Joey added towards end)
· Not Over Yet (AVPS, mostly solo with some ensemble towards end)
· To Have a Home (AVPS)
· I Wanna Be… (Starship, mostly solo with ensemble towards end)
· Life (Starship)
· Status Quo (Starship)
· Beauty (Starship, mostly solo with some ensemble)
· Kick it up a Notch Reprise (Starship)
· Gilderoy (AVPSY, mostly solo with ensemble towards end)
· Get in My Mouth (AVSPY, mostly solo with backup towards end)
· Sidekick (AVPSY)
· Goin’ Back to Hogwarts Reprise (AVPSY)
Solos Sung by Female Characters:
· Harry (AVPM)
· Coolest Girl (AVPS)
· Stutter (AVPS, female character but acted by guy)
· Get Back Up (Starship, mostly solo with backup towards end.)
I didn’t include Little White Lie because I don’t count it as a musical, and it’s complicated to figure out which songs count and which don’t.