The Woman In The Story by Helen Jacey (book review).

October 21, 2014 | By | Reply More

As should be seen by the title, ‘The Women In The Story’ is author Helen Jacey’s examination of the heroine’s role in films. I selected this book because I do have a habit of writing strong women in my ‘Psi-Kicks’ stories and wanted to see if I missed anything that I can apply in prose. I should point out that Jacey looks at women characters across the genres and so we see ours has some examples given although I think there might have been more examples than just Ellen Ripley but then, Sigourney Weaver tends to play strong woman roles in whatever film she’s in, although after ‘Alien’, that might have been a bit of typecasting. Considering the samples Jacey gives, I would have thought there’s a good case that women have been prominent in a variety of roles for a long time although just not seen that way.


Oddly, although gives a wide selection of examples from film and TV, it’s the omissions that I find oddest. No comment on ‘Alias’ or ‘Buffy The Vampire Slayer’ let alone two of the most influential woman leads, Cathy Gale and Emma Peel, from the 60s’ ‘The Avengers’. I mean, these are significant strong role parts that would have come up in any kind of research to be examined.

Jacey points out the various types of characters from her examples the various women types that have been used but there is little to say about whether they were written by male or female scriptwriters which must surely have a bearing on the qualities given to them. Although there is a hint from one film of non-whites, there is no indication of whether colour would have a bearing on the roles of women characters. It isn’t like there hasn’t been any like Pam Grier in her various roles or Tamara Dobson as Cleopatra Jones showing she was as dangerous as any male narcotics agent. Both actresses play strong character roles and nary a peep. Not even a hint of Holly Golightly from ‘Breakfast At Tiffany’s’ who must surely have represented something different on the scale of standalone.

That’s not to say that there isn’t some useful information and seeing how the layers of responsibility a woman has is useful but without anything to compare it from the man’s point of view, it does tend give no indication of strengths and weaknesses.

I do wonder if I’m being a little harsh but being familiar with writing strong female characters I do know what I’m looking for. Those of you with less familiarity should be able to find some guidance and direction from what Jacy says but I wish she’d explored further for examples.

GF Willmetts

October 2014

(pub: Michael Wiese Productions. 209 page indexed small enlarged paperback. Price: $26.95 (US), £17.99 (UK). ISBN: 978-1-932907-79-7)

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About UncleGeoff

Geoff Willmetts has been editor at SFCrowsnest for some 21 plus years now, showing a versatility and knowledge in not only Science Fiction, but also the sciences and arts, all of which has been displayed here through editorials, reviews, articles and stories. With the latter, he has been running a short story series under the title of ‘Psi-Kicks’
If you want to contribute to SFCrowsnest, read the guidelines and show him what you can do. If it isn’t usable, he spends as much time telling you what the problems is as he would with material he accepts. This is largely how he got called an Uncle, as in Dutch Uncle. He’s not actually Dutch but hails from the west country in the UK.

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