Anna (_ocelott_) wrote in genrereviews,

Strong Female Characters

You know what's a problem? Strong female characters. First of all, why do we have to specify "strong" when referring to "female characters?" Why is this not a given? The default for male is not "strong" or "wusstastic," so why do we have to be so specific about the chicks? It just creates complications, especially when the writer of a book or movie realizes it's time to put in their heroine. "Clearly we can't just have a damsel in distress. That will alienate 50% of the population, so I must make her strong. Let's see... she shall be small and lithe, and hella sexy, and able to beat up twenty men who each outweigh her by 150 pounds without messing up her hair! YES! This is so brilliant and unexpected!" The end result is that not only is she completely unrealistic, but such an emphasis has been put on her strength, which is entirely based on her physical attributes, she winds up completely devoid of personality. She exists to look pretty and hang around with the boys, but because she's strong, we're not supposed to notice she never actually does or says anything worthy of note.

On the other hand, and more frequently an issue in recent fiction, is the strong female character who, instead of impossibly kicking everyone in the head with more force than anyone else on the planet, becomes a confrontational, abrasive jerk. Why anyone spends time with her is a mystery, because she's incapable of treating anyone well, especially her friends. But, you see, she's so strong in her inability to be a pleasant person! Because a person with redeeming qualities is clearly just waiting for someone to stomp all over them, you know.

And let's not even get into the whole Mary Sue issue. When she's got everything, she's not really strong, is she? I mean, where's the struggle? What is she fighting against? Nothing really, she's just there either as an author wish fulfillment or the token female of the group, who like the physically strong female character, suffers from a lack of personality due to her natural ability to do everything.

I think a big part of the issue is that we focus too much on the "strong" part of "strong female character." So forget about the qualifier, and replace it with something else. I want to see quirky female characters. Or interesting female characters. Or flawed female characters. My all-time favourite male character archetype is the cute and geeky sidekick (intelligent, witty, often a bit socially awkward), but aside from Harry Potter's Hermione Granger, I can't think of much in the way of a female equivalent. Why is this? Seriously, there aren't a lot of "strong" female characters who don't fall into at least one of these traps, and I'm sorry, but I'm not interested in reading about a woman who falls apart the instant anything bad happens.

Alright, give me a shout. What interesting or quirky female characters can you think of? Who manages to be strong without sacrificing character for their vaunted strength?
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Tags: ranting!
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