Why Strong Female Characters are Bad for Women
hits the nail precisely on the head on the frustration I have for a lot of female characters on teevee.
It explains something that has been nagging at me for quite awhile about how women (in general) are portrayed in media, a same nagging that quite a lot women I know have similar problems with, yet none of us can explain exactly why.
Women are either "powerful" (for a given definition of "powerful"), or utterly useless. While the men get to be shades in-between.
Naturally, when women point out that something is rotten in the state of television, the guys around us are all, "But superpowered, kickass, uberconfident women! What's your problem?"
And we're left with, "Yes, but..." and still unable to exactly explain what the problem is.
The explanation usually circles the same conclusion as the article, "Because most of the women portrayed aren't actual people
. They're paint-by-the-numbers wish fulfillment for the males in the audience, the little filly that needs to be broken by her 'one true love', or an illustration in how no matter how good you are at what you do a pencil-necked geek with a serious lack of social skills will still have to save your ass with his manly-manliness."
This is not feminism. This is feminism as defined by men who'd like to think they're feminists, but they're really kind of not.
In the end, this is all very simple: Women like it when women are portrayed as people, not a stand-in for something else, and definitely not
when the character's whole reason for existing is to make some kind of point.
It seems that an awful lot of male writers for television and movies don't get this.
(These above points pretty much explain the problems I started having with Joss Whedon's "feminist" writing several years ago, and why I want to pull my hair out when people are still drinking kool aid on this. The only reason why I harp on the "Joss Whedon is not a fucking feminist" thing is because he keeps insisting he is. I keep looking at his stock female characters — which are the same in just about every damn thing he creates — and going, "Just about the only one who counts is Zoe on Firefly
, but only because Firefly
was canceled before he got bored and decided to give her a lobotomy so she'd be doing stupid, selfish shit for the sake "drama".
It's funny because it's true.
I used to joke near the end of the BtVS-AtS run that Buffy's storyline could be summed up as "It's All About Buffy's Vagina". Issue 33 of the BtVS has only reinforced
That's not to say that you can't find female characters who are written like real people on television shows that are running right now, because you can. The problem is that they're really few and far between compared to, say, men on television.
Some of them you can find in obvious places, like Rose Byrne on Damages
, or Lydia Adams and Chickie Brown on Southland
Some of them you can find in the not-so-obvious places, like Maddy Westen on Burn Notice
and Juliet O'Hara on Psych
[I maintain that the Jury is Out on Caprica
, although signs point to "promising". Let's see how it goes.]
The fact is, as the article I've linked to points out, women are NOT looking for superpowered women or uber-confident women or perfect women. We would just like to see human beings
in the shape of women.
At the end of the day, this isn't really that hard to figure out.
Note to All Male Writers (and Some Women) Everywhere, Whether You're a Pro Writer or a Fan Writer:
Women are people too.
They really, really are people just like you.
Just keep repeating that over, and over, and over again until you get it.
Loves and Kisses — Moi
Yeah, it sounds pretty obvious and dumb, but we gotta start somewhere and right now a lot of people (especially men) clearly need to be put in the remedial class.
In case your're wondering about my definition of "strong female characters who are also flawed human beings", I did a picture-heavy favorites list almost two years ago:
Fictional Women Who Rock My World: Queens
, Working Women
, and Lovable Scoundrels and Witches