Strong female characters. A phrase that apparently means many, many different things. In this interesting article, here, the author notes that the women often portrayed as “strong” are lacking in the character development department and are essentially, in my opinion, glorified tokens. They point out many of the same movies that even *I* have problems with for their portrayal of women. (No, this is not a feminist piece or a man bashing piece, just keep reading).
Checking out the good old Wiki on Marvel Comic movies, I see a whopping one starring a female character since like 1944. We will not discuss that movie here; it left me a little meh. You can figure it out though. Don’t get me wrong, I enjoyed The Avengers and I am waiting patiently for Thor 2. I love the Wolverine and X-Men movies. Yet, even though I love each of these, they all have left me a bit meh in some places. Why? There are no headlining women in many of the movies. There just seems to be a mass of “Token Female Characters” that make an appearance here and there with a witty line or two, but there does not seem to be more than that to them. Who are they? What powers or ideas do they have? Why are they fighting? Even some of the characters you *think* are more than a token gal seem to be kind of lacking if you think about it. Examples? Silver Fox and Anna Valerious in recent live action movies are a few that come to my mind. Poor Anna gets it bad in many blogs and forums, but really the authors have it right. It is like she is written to just fill the “girl” role.
Sure Chris Hemsworth and Hugh Jackman are very nice to look at. Sure, there are characters like Black Widow and my favorite Jean Grey in these movies that did seem to have a little more depth than some women characters. However, like the article above points out, sometimes the only woman around seems to have been written there to fill this “strong woman” role. (Sif, paging Sif, pretty sure she was more than that Thor movie had us believe!) It is almost as if the best a female character can ever be is a “side kick” in these movies. So, what is my gripe? At least they put the women on screen. Ok. I will give you that. But please stop giving us only “token female characters” in our movies and television shows. As a person of the female persuasion, I want someone I can “look up to” and “pretend to be”. Yes, I know I am an OLD LADY these days, but I was not always. I was once a little girl looking for role models other than Barbie. I liked Barbie OK, but she came with a sports car, not a weapon. I really preferred Red Sonja, She-Ra, and Princess Leia. Yes, I like some romantic elements, but I don’t need my women characters to be damsels in distress 97% of the time. Why? Because there are many women out there who do not want to be “rescued”. We can do it ourselves. Thanks. Move along.
I often say I enjoy “strong female leads”, but after reading this article and many of the others linked in it, I began to re-evaluate what that meant and if maybe I was sending the wrong message with that phrase. Luckily, for me, my definition of “strong” did not just mean physically strong or over-reactive and dramatic with a weapon. Whew. That is good. I do not want anyone to think my character, Athine, is in any way or shape a “token female character”. What I mean by saying I love strong female leads is just that. I am looking for that so not damsel in distress character that gets a lot of the scenes. (My series is a far cry from anything cutesy, damsel like, or romantic, just FYI.)
I think really this is why I wrote The Daughter of Ares Chronicles, because I was in need of more than just the “token female characters” that I had available to me at the time. I needed to fill the void that the lack of Xena, Lady Death, and Buffy had created. I needed somebody that I wanted to be and somebody that had a strong personality like I have. Hopefully, one day, more TV, movie, and video game makers will realize women are not going away and we want super heroines with depth and story too–not just a pretty face with a one liner and a gun to fill the “token female” role.
So, in the end, I do not hate the “strong female lead” term like some people do and I will continue to use that term to help define what I like to see in my entertainment. What I do hate is the “token female character” that some entertainers feel must be there to appease the women that obviously have been forced by their men folk to watch because we all know women can’t possibly be interested in super heroes, domination of the Earth, demons, or non-sparkly vampires. (HA!)
Shameless plug alert!
Interested in venturing with Athine and her non-token female friends? Visit www.shannonmcroberts.com and follow the “author” link to pick up the first book in the series free.