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June 11 2012

Sci-fi films with a true-to-life portrayal of women are all too rare, says Emily Jupp. Guess who the author uses as examples of the obligatory strong female characters?

This is so true. I think it's a very fine line that some are fearful to tread when it comes to giving strong female characters a vulnerability of character (i.e. the crying in the toilet thing mentioned in the article) because they think that's going to make it all sexist. Luckily Joss always handles it elegantly and honestly, but too often you see these bad-ass women characters who just come across cold because of it.
Some nice points, but to call Starbuck a complicated character is just silly. And calling pricess Leia a limp damsel in distress ... what Star Wars movies did she watch?
Prometheus had characters? Coulda fooled me.
An interesting idea derailed with some really bad examples.

I think it's only fair to complain of one-dimensional female characters if they exist in the same show/movie/whatever along side fully fleshed out complex three-dimensional male characters.

Also, pet peeve...women don't have to be more like men to be feminist icons. I would argue that making a woman more like a man subverts feminism and sends the message that women are only worthwhile if they are like men.
Princess Leia... wait, what? I feel like I watched a much different trilogy if this writer finds Leia and Bella Swan on the same side of any coin that isn't related to hair color.

[ edited by KingofCretins on 2012-06-11 18:27 ]
Hmm... Damsel in distress from a narrative device standpoint for A New Hope, but characteristically very different throughout the rest. It's like that's how you'd see Leia if you'd just read a synopsis...
I totally agree, KingofCretins, Princess Leia was always a ballsy strong heroine! There is no way she deserves to be compared to the weak suicidal Bella Swan (I am really offended by the comparison).
I feel like there's too much an emphasis on what *qualities* are being attributed to the women and that being a marker of "good" or effective feminist portryal, rather than the content of their arc in the overall story. I'd go into greater depth with this critique, except I'm not all that well-versed in any of the examples being bandied about (Star Wars, Twilight, it's been a while since BSG, etc)

An example for me is, ok, so Bella starts off being / is weak and dependent. Does she evolve at all during the course of the story (half rhetorical, half real question)? Because _people_ are often weak and dependent - the portrayal of those qualities themselves aren't undermining feminism, but the portrayal of those traits as being inherently, inevitably or inescapably associated with females does. As a counterpoint to that, the story of Lily/Anne in Buffy and Angel is a good one - she learns her strength, manages her fear, takes a chance, is inspired by someone.

Likewise, Leia is strong, kicking ass, etc. Does she change much throughout the trilogy in ways that nuances that so as to say something interesting about how women come to be strong, or how they manage the obstacles that arise with being a strong woman/person?
What, no mention of Susan Ivanova? Pfft.

I do sometimes get the sense that "strong" is overused when discussing characters, when what I really care about is "interesting" or "compelling". In particular, "strong" is crudely interpreted to mean "butt-kicking ability".

Buffy-the-show opted to standardize on chop-socky as a metaphor for power in general, but it's a metaphor. It's not supposed to be the only thing that matters. (And sometimes the metaphor creaks a bit, as in Helpless, where Buffy's moaning that now she knows what's out there but she doesn't have any superpowers to fight it... well, gee, welcome to Willow and Xander's world for the last zillion eps. It all resolves OK, but for a while there she sounds spoiled, and I don't think she was supposed to.)
Wanna make women real to life? Consider having babies... it is not much more real than that.
In general, "strong female characters" is a phrase that people need to get more tightly defined. Leia Organa is almost always active, always has an agenda, and isn't particularly prone to changing her mind. If the threshold is, "a strong female character never ends up in bad situations and gets out of everything themselves all the time" then no, Leia is mundanely human in that regard. And in Star Wars, every protagonist (the big 3 anyway) saves or is a part of saving every other protagonist.

And I agree blackmarket. To me, "strong female character" means a woman with her own desires,own agendas, and the internal strength to meet whatever end their agenda takes them to. The reason Ripley and Buffy are the "type" to me is that whether or not she has powers, she does what she has to do (which is Ripley.) I enjoy Buffy, but I prefer the Ivanova's, the Roslin's, the Kira's, and the Ripley's far more. They have no "god mode" aspect to them and have to survive by being human.
Yeah azzers, clearly terrible things happen to Katniss and/or Lisbeth, but they have brains and abilities (not actual super powers, but still astonishing skills) which allow them to come out on top. I'm glad that strong female characters are bringing big box office results in recent movies!
Princess Leia? I actually sputtered when I read that. Leia is the Princess Awesome. I never realized quite how awesome until I met Princess Amidala.

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