Strong Female Characters

I’m on the rag feeling a little under the weather today, so I decided to draw a random card from my “pick-me-up” deck, the Mythical Goddess Tarot.  The card I drew was the 7 of Fire (Courage). (Click link for image.)

I’m not sure what it has to do with my current situation, but it does remind me of today’s topic: strong female characters.

I don’t know about you, but I don’t really like the phrase “strong female character”. It seems like it’s trotted out to describe any female character who shows an ounce of personality beyond that of a doormat. We never talk about “strong male characters”. Why? We don’t because we assume that male characters will naturally be well-rounded and interesting, and I think that is what many people mean when they talk about “strong” characters. They want characters who are interesting. This doesn’t necessarily mean that all female characters need to kick copious amounts of ass to be interesting. A character who tries to carve her own niche in a rigidly patriarchal society can be interesting without having to resort to epic sword fights.

Here I’d say a few words about “Mary Sue” characters, but I would refer you to this excellent post about the Mary Sue as a sexist concept.

I think that everyone has character types that tick them off. For me, I hate when we are told a female character is skillful, experienced, and an all-around kick ass chick–only to see her spend the entirety of a series needing to be rescued, or the writers somehow downplaying her skills so the (usually male) main character can still be the focus of the story. TV Tropes has a term for this, the Faux Action Girl. For a good example of this concept in action, I’d recommend reading this post on Anna Valarious from the movie “Van Helsing”.  I also can’t stand perpetually angry characters. There are characters who get angry, and then there are characters like Kratos from God of War, who is so angry the second game could easily be called “God of Anger” and it would be correct.

One other accusation that is brought against female characters in fiction is that they are “men with boobs” and (as you might expect) I don’t agree with this concept either. It seems to me that it’s always applied to women who are aggressive, intimidating, or just plain angry. In short, women who exhibit traditionally “masculine” characteristics. Female characters can kick ass, but not too much ass, because kicking copious amounts of ass is a man thing, women, being smaller and weaker than men, can’t realistically take on twelve baddies at once, even if your world has dragons and people have the ability to throw fireballs. Also, because all women have the same body type and no access to combat training.

Look, just go read Badass of the Week. Not only is it highly entertaining, you might learn a thing or two. The Badass of the Week as of this writing is Hawa Abdi. You will find plenty of gun-toting badass women I talked about earlier on that site, but IMO, you try facing down 750 Somali pirates and not crapping your pants, BTW, you’re unarmed, and they have machine guns, RPGs, and mortar launchers.  Good luck!

Anyways, I guess what I want to see is more interesting characters in general. I want characters who are strong, smart, funny, charismatic, villainous, conniving, playful, pious, tough, sensitive, and weird regardless of the bits between their legs or the boxes they choose to check off. I want characters I can root for and I want characters that I love to hate, that’s it. Give me something interesting, dammit!


2 thoughts on “Strong Female Characters

  1. I personally loved this post and will share it on my facebook. There are certainly more bad ass female characters in fiction than there used to be – which is good. Yet there are still more complex and developed male characters than female IMO. I think this is because male focused stories are still the norm. But that is also starting to change too. In terms of female character stereotypes, I think the following are overused: the badass with no personality, the perpetually bitchy one, the mary sue and the manic pixie dreamgirl (Indie Movies are notoriously bad with this one).

    In terms of a popular novel that portrays a well developed female heroine, I think The Hunger Games is good – not excellent – but good.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s