Posts once a week at Beacon. That’s how I wanna roll. 🙂
Anyway, here’s the latest at my pop culture column over there. It’s about the difference between “Strong Female Characters” and “Nuanced Female Characters” and why I think Rita Vratasky (Emily Blunt) in Edge of Tomorrow is a great example of the kind of female character we should be clamoring to see in films.
I hate the phrase Strong Female Character.
“Strong Female Character” carries with it a judgement that I don’t think its users intend. After all, what does “strong” mean? Does it mean physically strong (and so, are we defining strength according to stereotypically male criteria)? Does it mean emotionally strong (and so, does this mean that if a woman cries, falls in love, or protects her children she’s not strong)? Does it mean assertive and ambitious (and so, can more average women not be “strong characters?” And how do we square that with the fact that, with male protagonists, the Hero’s Journey is often defined by his starting out as an ineffectual schlub who grows into leadership. Was he not a “strong character” until the very end)?
My preferred phrase – and what I think most people mean when they say “Strong Female Character” – is Nuanced Female Character.
What those who want gender parity in pop culture want in their female characters is complexity. We want them to be more than girlfriends, doormats, or prizes to be won. We want them to have their own inner lives and goals in the stories we watch. Even if they’re not the protagonists, we want them to be fully-realized people, not caricatures. We want them to have strengths and flaws. We want them to have, or at least want and earn, agency. Most of all, we want them to have a reason to be in the story that doesn’t boil down to: Plot Device.
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