From “A Plague of Strong Female Characters” by Carina Chocano in The New York Times Magazine:
“… Few cultural tropes get under my skin like ‘strong female character,’ and it still surprises me when like-minded people use it. Maybe the problem is semantic. Maybe what people mean when they say ‘strong female characters’ is female characters who are ‘strong,’ i.e., interesting or complex or well written—‘strong’ in the sense that they figure predominantly in the story, rather than recede decoratively into the background. But I get the feeling that what most people mean or hear when they say or hear ‘strong female character’ is female characters who are tough, cold, terse, taciturn and prone to scowling and not saying goodbye when they hang up the phone.
“… Characters like these… do serve as a kind of gateway drug to slightly more realistic—or at least representational—representations of women. On the other hand, they also reinforce the unspoken idea that in order for a female character to be worth identifying with, she should really try to rein in the gross girly stuff. This implies that unless a female character is ‘strong,’ she is not interesting or worth identifying with.”
Chocano then goes on to talk about Kristen Wiig’s seemingly “weak” character in Bridesmaids, and how she is actually an empowering character for women:
“We don’t relate to her despite the fact that she is weak, we relate to her because she is weak.
“… This makes me think that the problem is not that there aren’t enough ‘strong’ female characters in the movies—it’s that there aren’t enough realistically weak ones. You know what’s better than a prostitute with a machine gun for a leg or a propulsion engineer with a sideline in avionics whose maternal instincts and belief in herself allow her to take apart an airborne plane and discover a terrorist plot despite being gaslighted by the flight crew? A girl who reminds you of you.”
This article is well worth the read.
Image via Movies Bizz.