The ditzy lead character formula might be wearing thin, even for some die hard fans.

~ By Melissa De Silva

Today, unlike some of the hapless dames in Mad Men, women don’t have to pretend to have the IQ of an ornamental goldfish to get ahead in life. So why on earth would we want to read about a lead character who has cotton candy for brains? We pitched the question below to 3 smart, sassy, chick lit readers:

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Q: What do you think of a heroine who’s independent, smart and focused more on her career and other personal pursuits than on men? (she is interested in romance but it’s just not the main obsession of her life)

Says Anjeli Narandran, an NGO worker:

YES PLEASE. That said, I have seen this attempted in some books and these characteristics are often portrayed like, ‘Megan was beautiful and smart and had lovely legs and eyes but she had no time for guys as she was a high-flying, jet-setting Executive Director of a private investment firm. Then she met Javier, a street musician with nothing to his name except an easy smile and a formidable talent with the ukelele. Will he be the flame to thaw our Ice Princess’ frozen heart?’ A strong female lead like that needs to be portrayed as whole, functioning, well-balanced individual and not someone who’s broken.

Marianne Wee, a beauty editor, says:

You know, I actually prefer chick lit where romance/men are not the main focus of the protagonist. I find those very tedious and the protaganists tend to be rather air-headed and one-dimensional. That’s quite insulting to me as an intelligent reader!

Finally, fashion event organizer Grace Tay, a voracious chick lit reader, weighs in:

I think a lead like that is maybe a good reflection of reality? [laughs] I would imagine such books are written by authors who’ve had real life experience as working women. I personally hate it when protagonists are dumbed down, and I get really annoyed by pea brain logic. I’m not the world’s biggest feminist but I think it’s an insult to women that the only formula for a book to be funny is to roll out the bimbo.

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What do you think of a lead whose main aim in life isn’t men and happily-ever after romance? And is the chick lit genre turning smart readers off with dumbed down protagonists with the IQ of catatonic lab mice?

…watch out for the final post of the Chick Lit Gets Conscious series: Chocolate Cake for the Soul

Melissa De Silva is a freelance magazine journalist based in Singapore. She is currently working on a luxe-adventure chick lit novel set in Asia with an international cast of characters. When she isn’t writing for work or play, she paints like a child and takes long walks in tropical parks, squirrel-spotting while trying to avoid evil, thuggish monkeys.