This Thing Called Trinity Syndrome
There has been much talk of “Trinity Syndrome” since How To Train Your Dragon 2 came out. It was a thing before that, but it is more of a thing now due, I imagine, to the only complaint worthy aspect of the movie being Valka’s sudden uselessness in battle once the mens came along. Astrid was certainly underutilized, but in the end, she did save save everyone’s asses. But Valka, well… *sigh*
A quick explanation of Trinity Syndrome for those who may not be familiar: The Trinity herein is the one from the Matrix movies, played by Carrie-Anne Moss. A character who starts out strong (both physically and as a character — more on that tomorrow –) and then, while still present, sort of quietly fizzles away in terms of story impact or action. Why? Who the hell knows but it does happen and it’s massively disappointing because wow, what could have been…
I think everyone agrees, at this point, that Trinity Syndrome is a common occurrence, especially in the geek world. It is, in part, a sign of progress: women are boldly going where they haven’t done before or have gone only with green skin or metal bikinis and chains. Or boob windows.
The problem is, in many cases, they’re being sent to appease the female fan base or to say to the fan base at large, “no, here look, see, we have a strong female character,” without actually creating someone with, well… character. Put in a more writerly way, while yes, the ladies are appearing at an exponential rate, they are devices (ooh, that damn word again). Used with the best of intentions, perhaps, but I think we’re at the point where these rookie mistakes, even if not deliberate, are getting rather old.
I loved How to Train Your Dragon 2 (though I wish someone had warned me there was a major character death so I could prepare the boy; luckily, he was so engrossed by fire breathing dragons, he didn’t notice). I did have a major WTF? moment, however, when Valka, a warrior woman who’s convictions were so strong she felt compelled to leave not only her family, but the only life she’d ever known, to uphold them, who had fought off the same villain on multiple occasions in defense of her dragon, and who wore that amazing creepy armor, was immediately laid out in battle once the menfolk arrive (one of them being Hiccup who, in most endearing fashion, while having grown more proficient at the fighting arts, is still a little bit of a doofus). After this battle, while she does indeed fight and kick ass, her importance to the story diminishes; she looses all of her ferocity, all of her feral nature, all of her power of character, and is relegated, once more, to the status of HICUUP’S MOM, taking a back seat even to HICCUP’S GIRLFRIEND.
I appreciate what the movie folks are trying to do. Mostly. Even Disney made a stab at some sort of female depth with Frozen, despite it’s many, many, many flaws. Many. Many, many. We are, however, in my mind, past the point where people should be “trying” or “stabbing.” Equal female character hood should be de facto not de rigeur. It should not be a trend or a fad. It should simply be.