In reply to two comments on my Stranger Things review:
*I have a question for the women watching this, at what point does the need to point out the empowering “strong female character ” stop?
*In fact, the ’empowered female character’ point Alachia made about Ela was really the only thing I found jarring in what was otherwise an excellent review (though I’m finding she is really consistent in delivering quality reviews from what I’ve watched so far).
Maybe it’s because I’m female that I pay more attention to how females are portrayed…but in the cases of most of the “strong” ones.. they come with caveats. Sara Conner- crazy, Ripley- terrified and abused, Rey- young and unsure of her powers. …and whatever that Hunger Games mess was. These women are weak on some level but rise out of that to find strength. Even Eleven was the same.
If you look at movies targeted towards men vs women you see a vast difference in where the heart of the story lies. Love, Emotional Triumph, Sex, Relationships vs Fighting, Car Chases, Revenge, Violence. I’m not even going to label which is which. There is a general division of interests between men and women in the states and that is something people don’t want to say. That we’re somehow equal in interests as well as everything else. Men and women are not the same.
What is generally derived as bold, brave, and fortuitous characters in film tend to be of one sex. Not to mention physically efficient. There are rare exceptions but in general, this is the case and I don’t necessarily blame anyone for it because like I said, the sexes are different here and the demographic interests in movies is apparent.
My biggest concern is that you have a problem if a female wants to feel empowered. Not all of us just decide we’re equal and worthy of different attributes. Everyone comes into their own sense of worth at different times and different moments depending on their value system. Emboldening a moment for one sex shouldn’t be seen as unnecessary or a waste. We all need moments.
I personally love the idea of physical strength being more represented in film. It is why I really love anime as they’ve done what general western films simply lack, in giving females amazing and equal powers to male counterparts. I don’t care if it is just fantasy, it’s just nice to see on a personal level. I don’t know why that’s an issue, wanting that?
It’s nice that people ask the question. I think it’s a valid one. Strong female characters should never stop if they are part of a compelling narrative. To shove a strong female into a story just for “empowerment” sake is where things just become trite and undermines the point. Both male and females should be able to take pride in their sex, there is nothing wrong with that.
Where that source of pride comes from can vary and the necessity also vary. Some women like to see themselves sexually dominant, others business savvy, and some like me want to see women snap necks. It’s a personal thing! There is no right or wrong to it.
Now if you sit there and try to shove “strong female” down everyone’s throat without providing a decent narrative along with it, then you defeat the whole purpose. Rey’s character in Star Wars was a huge cop out in my opinion and leads down the path of “she’s a bad ass because they said so” …instead of you just knowing she’s a bad ass because she simply was one. Male or female, that story path is weak. You kind of need to at least be able to peak at where their strength comes from…ie intensive training, gifts from the gods, specific life experiences, academics… etc.
For example in the case of Sara Conner in T2, you know she’s gained her strength from extensive work outs as well as her experiences and knowledge of the terminator and the future. In the case of Rita in the Edge of Tomorrow it was trauma from the war and extensive non stop combat training.
It’s nice to see physically powerful females represented. We do after all, live in a world where human trafficking is a 32 billion dollar industry. In the US alone, 4 million women are victims of domestic violence.
I think a lot of us are lucky in that we live in a social circle where women are empowered daily by their peers and parents. But that’s not the case for everyone. So yes, in some aspects the idea that women need to be empowered can seem like some kind of pedantic petty pat on the head that females don’t need. And in some of the films, it sure seems like that’s all they are doing.
But there are cases where strong character moments connect and embolden someone to feel more worthy or more capable or enable them to see past their current situation. For that, I don’t really feel like you could ever say there could be enough.
August 8, 2016 at 7:53 pm
To me, in stories movies tv, women are never allowed to truely be villians and i think that this is the key. A heros equal or at times superior is the villan, women aren’t or haven’t been allowd to fill the pure evil role
Think of the various male villans and thier motivations now think of women villans and compair thier motivations. Until thier is parody in this catagory we cant truely get the hero we dont have to ‘make a big deal out of’
August 8, 2016 at 10:04 pm
(feeling like I am walking on eggshells here-in a minefield)
As a writer, i find myself questioning how I write in female characters into my stories (some of which are ongoing) while avoiding the common tropes that often come from a man writing as a woman or attempting to tell a story from a woman’s perspective. I have several projects in the works with women in the main roles, I feel compelled to make their voices “strong” without overdoing it. I appreciated what you had to say about Rey, it bothered me too that she just steps into the story as a badass when there is so much opportunity to make her start out uninitiated into force, flying ships among other aspects. I give credit to the actor for her portrayal of the character as strong a survivor but the action doesn’t allow for her to find strength or gain from experience in order to become what she is being presented to us as by the end of the film.
My own struggle as a writer is to determine how vulnerable a character should be- I almost said it was much harder for writing a female character than a male…sighs, maybe it’s inescapable that we fall into the tropes, archetypes and characterizations we grew up with but I want to believe that I will find my characters should I avoid the pitfalls along the way.
My hat doth go off to dear old George RR Martin for setting a standard for all writers. I suspect that the answer is in treating all characters as the same, we are not that different, I mean they are not that different than we are led or even want to believe. Thus my answer is the point where we stop pointing out strong female characters in a story is when there is no need to point them out. As a writer and a reader, you will know them when they enter into the storyline without having to have someone (the writer) highlight them, stop the movie and explain why they are badass or will become the badass.
I feel that much of the female-centered movies, books, video games, comics, etc are being used to overcompensate for what was once a power vacuum dominated by male characters. TombRaider is a good example. I like them all but the last one just kind of killed it for me. It’s the only tomb raider game I’ve left unfinished. I read and watched some reviews…side note we need more female video game reviewers (yes, I am biased). What struck here with “Rise of the Tomb Raider” was that Lara stopped being interesting.
I think that may be the problem that we are now seeing with strong female characters in movies and books.
Case in point, Wonder Woman in BvsS, as a reviewer so amply put it, Diana is quite boring until they toss her into the fray and then we have the most interesting/exciting 5 minutes of the movie. Admittedly, BvsS was overly complex with way too much going on, still making Diana interesting would have improved the movie exponentially. What made her 90’s comic book series memorable for me (and I have an almost complete collection there-albeit well read) is that the writers made her interesting. I cared what she said and did and the why and how as much.
I could go on there are some really good examples of female characters that are strong where no one needed to run out and say “look here is the empowered female we wanted you to come see!”
Gaiman’s Death is a great example.
anyway, I could probably write a book if I don’t shut up.
Thanks for the insight, I am searching around in hopes of improving my own storylines by finding people (yeah I mean women) who will let me look into their POVs on this topic.
August 11, 2016 at 7:27 pm
Thanks for your insight on this. The problem with “writing women” is figuring out what woman you are trying to write. I noticed this in movies. Females are varied in characteristics of course but then there are stereotypes and tropes and despite feminazis throwing them all the window, they’re often very valid for the times. Nicely portrayed females in movies and books are great because they often don’t try to pretend that “all humans are equal and the same”. You can’t just gender bend for gender bending sake. You have to take into account what a gender change means. (this is me just talking out of my ass of course).
Most women are drawn to things that men just aren’t. There are innate senses a woman will value above men. I see this over and over again in my life and not a single woman has proved me wrong. And instead of simply trying to embrace these differences, SJWs and the media instead look to DEVALUE what men value and think as the solution. It drives me crazy.
Anyhow, not sure where I’m going with this reply but thanks for commenting!