I will add this to my mental notebook of the numerous posts over the past six months about the roles of females in fiction stories, in that, they are poorly misrepresented by male authors.
Aside, you will find that I review as many female authors as men, as I am interested in the strengths and weaknesses of both sexes. Makes for better storytelling.
Where to begin?
Everyone is Hollywood is attractive. Their job is to make money by entertaining, not to be a societal barometer (we used to have the news for that, alas). Likewise, fiction by its nature, is escapist, which means, yes, they employ exaggerated visually appealing themes, etc.
It comes down to choices.
Feminists suggest that Playboy is misogynistic, because it features naked women. Those poor beautiful women, having no choice ... but to be paid lots of money and live in Hefner's mansion and frolick and play at the pool and wear a swimsuit...
This is the thing. Who really has the power here? Is it Hefner with his millions? No, it's the random hot girl who knows that men cannot resist the perfection of her form, and she gets to say, "give me what I want." (money, security, glamorous life, etc).
Hefner's just smart enough to understand the balances involved. Ironically - or suitably, because he is so clever - women of all ages flock to him. Many live and breathe just to get him to take their picture.
NO ONE is being forced. All of those in that situation are happy making other people happy. Escapist entertainment. Everyone wins.
It is not a crime to enjoy visual beauty.
Is modern society to blame for the resurrections of the old fables of the past, where the doomed female must indeed be rescued by the HANDSOME, ROYAL PRINCE Charming? Pretty Woman syndrome. She was a PROSTITUTE (EWWWW)! And he could have had anyone (though I find R Gere a little fruity, chicks like him).
It's about choices.
Women choose. Those ancient stories about rescuing princesses - modern feminists see those tales as making women look weak and frail and incapable.
Wrong. Those stories are about the reality of what is desirable (the perfect woman, a princess) and what lengths a man must be prepared to go to win her (kill Dragons, swim moats, face death). That the woman was captured is subtext on the desirability of a female to begin with.
If a man was captured, would women go rescue him? Heck no. Not unless he was the father of her children (or her child), or somehow could provide for her a parallel to home/nest security; otherwise, he's buggered. Men must face death just for the chance of being chosen.
Where did those come from?
Ancient biological imperatives. The women choose the man who is best suited to give her a strong child and protect the home.
Helen of Troy? Anthony and Cleopatra? History is full of stories displaying to what incredible lengths a man must go in order to win a woman's heart, in order to be chosen. All women had to do was be there.
Like the avians, a male's life is spent achieving and portraying, so that we are chosen by a mate for our brightly colored plumes. Do we want to strut like a peacock? No. We have to.
"Well, women don't wanna be barefoot and pregnant!"
Fine. Don't. The species could go extinct, because men can't get pregnant, can't give birth and (in most cases) cannot breastfeed. There's nothing men could do about it, if women say no. (Don't bring up criminal acts, most people aren't criminals - you don't govern rules by the exceptions.) That is the very gist of our species survival, that women have always decided what is in their best interest to persevere, and men, by biological imperative, must abide.
There's no objectification here. There's women going, "I can make a living by looking hot and sexy and men will give me money and security and so forth."
Because, why, we're basically predictable idiots who are biological slaves to the power of a woman.
Feminists seem to forget that part.
Fables and stories are not essays in the weakness of a woman. They are "how to" lessons for being a man. The knight in shining armor is what a man must, according to biological imperative, rise to, if he ever wants to have a princess.
Ms. Magazine rags on Iron Man. He's a narcissistic womanizer. Men see him and go "Wow, look at all the choices he has."
Ms. says that the lesson is, "It is acceptable to treat women as objects."
That's laughable. The lesson is, "If you want to have more choices of women by which to bear your children, you must be mega rich, mega smart, wear a battle suit made of metal and fight evil - and have enough time in the day to be socially graceful."
Women, stop being offended by the portrayal of a weak heroine who needs a man to rescue her. Those stories are written for men, so that they will become strong, honorable and intelligent in order to be worthy of you making the choice of them over another suitor.
The power of your choices perseveres to this very day. Fiction dramatizes, exaggerates and encapsulates the ideology, but the core values are a biological imperative that are hardwired into the human brain.
You can emasculate men and overempower women in fiction, but it would not sell, because it would not connect to the reader. Why deny the imperatives? Centuries of story telling have successfully carried forward the core truths of human relationships.
Does that mean there should be no extraordinary female characters? Absolutely not. It does mean, however, that somewhere, somehow, there will be a similarly extraordinary male for her to choose when she faces biological imperatives. There'd still be a story to tell.