DISCLAIMER: Clicking on any of the links you see may very well lead you to places where bad words are thrown about with abandon. I may keep it PG for our dear, sweet Kate but on my site as well as Rachel Thompson’s, I use much stronger language and discuss very adult situations. There, you’ve been warned.
Strong Female Characters (SFC)
There’s been a lot of talk online lately about Strong Female Characters (SFC); turns out, they’re still quite the rarity when it comes to our entertainment mediums. I’d say that’s surprising (and disappointing) considering how successful ladies who kick butt and chew bubblegum have proven themselves to be. Personally, I think it’s incredibly stupid to disregard the awesomeness of SFCs; while fanboys (and girls) go gaga watching Natasha Romanova/Black Widow beat the ever-loving tar out of baddies, we’ve yet to get her in her own film (though I’d much rather see a Black Widow/Hawkeye dynamic duo flick, but that’s because of my boy crush on Jeremy Renner and belief that they’re the cutest non-couple not on Nickelodeon) and she’s not the only heroine being ignored by The Powers That Be.
MORE THAN EYE CANDY
They make the monies, they have thirsty fanbases and they’re the equals of their menfolk counterparts so where have all the she-centered scripts gone? Even in books, I’ve seen a dearth of girl power and even when we have an SFC, she’s normally relegated to the sidekick, even when she’s the main frikkin character (STOP THAT) or simply must have an Alpha Male Lover (AML) with tattoos and pecs and a really big… gun. Weird, considering there’s a HERstory of popular action chicks – and a few were even dude-free.
Yet we still have women not used nearly as often as men when it comes to action/adventure stories unless, of course, they’re joined by or mentored or saved by that cardboard cutout AML. But there’s more to gals than being an extension of a man and we need to see more of that. Maybe The Powers That Be just need to be reminded that you don’t need the boy parts to draw a crowd, wow a fanbase and make ALL THE MONEY.
OH, LOOK… PROOF!
Because why just take my word for it?
BUFFY THE VAMPIRE SLAYER
Buffy Summers is the Chosen One, the one in all the world… well, you know how it goes. P.S. If you don’t, remedy that. Now. Anyway, for seven seasons, Buffy lead the Scoobie Gang against all manner of evil: master vampires, psycho ex-boyfriends, giant demon snakes, super Frankenstein monsters, a bloody Hellgoddess, her own crazy BFF and even the Source of all Evil. And she’s not the franchise’s only SFC; Willow, Faith, Kendra, Drusilla, Glory… the list goes on. These gals didn’t hide behind the boys (well, Willow did at first but, hey, not everyone is always ready for a tussle) and were on the front lines. And, yes, Buffy had a few boyfriends/toys (and one chicka in the season eight comic) but every moment of her existence was not intertwined with XY chromosomes. She was the center of the show and played second fiddle to no one.
XENA: WARRIOR PRINCESS
Spun off of the less amazing Hercules: The Legendary Journey, Xena was first introduced as a warlord (warlady?). By the time she began airing on her own show, she was a woman looking to make amends for her past evils. And she did that by becoming a full-fledged superhero (what else would you call a god-killer?); she took on all sorts of evil-doers, from entire armies to the gods themselves. And she wasn’t the only SFC: Gabrielle fought beside her as the series moved along, eventually becoming queen of the Amazons (and we all know how hard they kick butt). SFCs were even on the other side of the law; remember that nut-job Callisto? Watching her and Xena go at it was AMAZING. They didn’t get with the hair-pulling, name-calling, throw-in-the-pool nonsense made famous by nighttime serials; they went full-on MMA. Don’t try telling me there’s not money ready to be thrown at that sort of thing.
Speaking of the almighty Amazons, where’s Princess Diana’s feature film? She’s one-third of the Holy Triumvirate that all of DC Comics is built upon yet she’s treated like a second stringer. Dang it, DC, when are you gonna figure it out? Wonder Woman may not have the rogues’ gallery of Gotham or the boring, devoid of personality of Superman but she does have one of the most intriguing backstories in comicdom and the freaking god of war to tussle with but let’s just use her as a bloody guest star in the stupidly named Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice (seriously, that’s the one you chose!?) Are y’all that braindead? Stupid-heads. Oh, and she was once was found worthy to wield Mjölnir.
Unlike the idiots over at DC, Marvel has done some wonderful work bringing their ladies front and center; aside from Black Widow’s run on ALL THE FILMS, they’ve been sure to include their heroines since X-Men appeared in theaters; Jean Grey, Mystique and, my forever favorite, Storm. How is it that Marvel knows the value of she-warriors is equal to that of he-warriors? Granted, they’ve made some weird decisions like replacing Kitty’s role in Days of Future Past with Logan and killing Emma off off-screen (gah!) and all of The Last Stand (the 90’s cartoon pulled it off, but the feature frikking films failed so hard?) but they don’t ignore the ladies like their Warner-owned counterpart. DC could stand to learn a few things. And she kicked Wonder Woman’s behind.
Pronounced nikkus. Kate Todd was a former secret service agent tasked with protecting the president. Jenny Shepard was a former field agent-turned-director of a federal agency. Abby Sciuto is a brilliant scientist whose skills are invaluable to the team. Ziva David is a former Mossad agent who killed her own brother and survived untold torture before becoming a full-time NCIS agent. NCIS may have the record for most SFCs in a single series. There is no “boys’ club” at the Navy Yard; Gibbs may be fearless leader, but even he would tell you that his team would be nothing without the incredible women who are and have been a part of it. Even after Kate’s and Jenny’s exits, they both still impact the series years later and will continue to until the series’ swan song. And for the record, Jenny was a way better director than Vance could ever be. Also, she’s not really dead.
For all the over-the-top violence and sexualization in the venerable fighting series, there is one thing they got right: these ladies can fight. Sheeva, Kitana, Sindel, Sonya, Tanya, Mileena (my favorite) and oh so many more have never been segregated from their male counterparts (hear that, WWE 2k16?) and have always been seen as equals in the eyes of fans. Yea, they may be wearing not much more than thongs (don’t they get cold?) but they do hold their own in kombat and that’s something that deserves at least as much attention.
GAME OF THRONES
Yes, I know there’s been a lot of misogyny towards HBO’s hit, but the plethora of SFCs cannot be ignored. From Margery to Arya to Cersei, the women of King’s Landing are some of the strongest, most determined characters in all of fiction. They have survived horrible violence inflicted by their own blood (and don’t forget what that scumbag Jamie did to his own sister) and still keep fighting. Cersei, the show’s stand-out character, was even punished for doing what men do all the time – but you know it’ll only steel her resolve. Say what you will about Game of Thrones, but these ladies are some of the best role models a person could have. They’re bloody survivors.
Contrary to what so many claim, there’s more to Disney gals than being saved by the nameless prince and we had girl power from the House of Mouse long before Frozen, as Mulan would like to remind you. The princesses, at least since the 80s, have been about inner strength, intelligence, exploration and following their dreams. No, Ariel is not a weakling who sold her soul (err, voice) for a man nor is Megara simply a DID (well, she was a damsel and she was in distress but knew she could handle it on her own) who needs some big strong man to save her. The ladies, while not strong in the Finish Him sense, can take care of themselves. They’ve also given us some amazing villainesses; Cruella DeVil, Maleficent and Ursula (the best ever), just to name a few. SFCs appear on both sides of the good/evil fight, just like in real life. So there.
RESPECT THEIR AUTHORITAH
Stop ignoring SFCs. Stop treating women like set decorations and rewards to be won the some boring AML who spends half his time protecting the frail thing and the other half condescending to her (all while somehow managing to get her into bed); I think of a man and I take away reason and accountability (As Good As It Gets) may be a funny line, but it’s not gonna help you create a fully-formed, three-dimensional lady hero. As has been proven, when you want to write a woman, just think of a person and try to imagine how that person would react to whatever you throw at them. So forget about the AML and focus on your SFC; she’s a lot more capable than you give her credit for.
Cause, duh, women are people, too.
So, you got a favorite SFC?
Kate Tilton says
My current personal favorite SFC is Agent Carter from Captain America (and more importantly from her own series: Agent Carter). I love that Carter still feels and shows emotions, unlike some SFC who bottle everything up and only show the strong side. Carter will cry over a friend’s death and then get up and do what needs to be done. She is such a brilliantly portrayed character in her series I can really look up to her.
Plus Carter is from an age where women were treated as less than equal to men by a larger degree, yet instead of accepting that she uses it to her advantage to accomplish what needs to be done. If you haven’t see the series yet Will, you must!
Will Van Stone Jr says
Agent Carter is awesome; the way she navigates the Boys’ Club to get her job – which she excels at – despite the rotten treatment she’s suffers is inspiring. She’s a great role model. And she reminds me of portrayals of the Tudor queens (Anne Boleyn and Catherine Parr on “The Tudors” and Elizabeth I in, like, every movie that’s ever been made by her) and how they had to wield their power, almost in secret, by convincing men like Henry VIII and members of Parliament that *they* were really in control.
I’d have used them as examples but they’re real people so…
Kate Tilton says
All are excellent examples. Hopefully we will continue to see more examples as time progresses.
Rachelle Wells says
Totally agree. I wasn’t sure what direction the show would go, and I was surprised by the depth in it. She’s a fully formed human being.
Kate Tilton says
It is completely amazing and made me love the show. Normally I prefer to watch the guy superheros (cause ❤) but Carter is awesome!!
Candace Vianna says
Fave SFC of all time Tank Girl’s D’bomb
Will Van Stone Jr says
I love Tank Girl! Could do without the roo nudes but, hey, still an awesome comic.
Candace Vianna says
I’ve seen the movie, no nude roo’s there. Now I’m going to have to lookup the comic.
Will Van Stone Jr says
They’re awesome. And more than a little dirty. They’ve been collected into graphic novels; Amazon.com has them.
Pamela Love says
Molly, from Ursula Vernon’s novel Castle Hangnail. While she’s always a strong female character, she’s only twelve, and I enjoy seeing how the author shows her growing more powerful.
Kate Tilton says
That’s a great example, Pamela, women of all ages can be strong in their own ways. 🙂