Lately, I’ve grown so tired of watching male “chosen ones” and “jerks with the heart of gold” save the day and get the girl. Representation matters, and girls want to be chosen ones too, and not just princesses in distress. Women are allowed to hate the world and be brilliant while reluctantly saving the day. And we should be able to see ourselves, our stories, and our fantasies reflected on screen too. I’m always on the lookout for female characters subverting generally male character tropes, and today I would like to tell you about some of them and why they matter.
Tag Archives: Strong Female Characters
Star Wars Rebels, Hera Syndulla, and Twi’lek Slavery
Star Wars Rebels’s second season will be coming soon, but not soon enough. I’m still blown away by how great the story is—I honestly didn’t think I would enjoy it all that much considering that Ahsoka, my favorite character ever, is hardly in it, and Asajj has yet to make an appearance either. Rebels gives us an entirely unique cast, and I wasn’t sure how much I would love them since I’m so invested in other characters. I needn’t have worried, because Rebels does such a wonderful job: the story is interesting, and its main characters are all well written.
One of these characters is Hera Syndulla, a Twi’lek ship pilot with connections to the rebel movement against the Empire. Hera is the first Twi’lek character in either the movies or the televisions shows to have a huge role. We’ve seen other Twi’leks, such as Aayla Secura, in supporting roles, but Hera is a main character. I was both pleasantly surprised and super excited for Rebels when I first saw Hera, because Twi’leks have been a longtime favorite species of mine, and that love has only grown in recent years. Hera has solidified that love.
Sexualized Saturdays: Then I Saw Her Face, Still Not a Believer
You’ve all seen Shrek, right? Stars an ogre and a talking donkey on their quest to parody some fairy tale tropes? The princess of those movies, Princess Fiona, is cursed to be a human by day and an ogre by night, and only love’s true kiss will make her take “love’s true form”. At the end, she takes the form of the ogre rather than the more stereotypically beautiful human, and it’s because of this that Fiona is thought of as a positive, feminist example of the modern-day princess. But in fact, Fiona is not as subversive or as effective a character as you might think.
Spoilers for all the Shrek movies below.
Sexualized Saturdays: Fear of the “Unfeminine”
Recently we got an email from a young fan which, among other things, told us about this petition for Disney to make a plus-size princess. Creator Jewel Moore, an American high school student, said on the petition, “I know many younger plus-size girls and women who struggle with confidence and need a positivie (sic) plus-size character in the media. I want there to be a character for those little girls to look up to.”
That’s certainly a laudable goal, and from even a cursory look at Disney movies, we can tell that they use a cartoonish, overly dramatic, white feminine form as a standard for their princesses (in Disney’s most recent movie, Frozen, the girls’ wrists are thinner than their huge eyes). Beyond the usual argument that Disney only makes stick-thin model princesses, though, it’s clear that Disney has a very exacting definition of feminine. All the princesses are thin, yes; all of them also come armed with varying virtues like determination, kindness, intelligence, and integrity. They even all have long hair. Disney has defined feminine in such a way that if a girl doesn’t squeeze herself within these narrow confines, she’s practically labeled “not a girl”.
And well beyond the iron fist of Disney, it seems that the rest of our media content has also adopted this definition of feminine. There are rarely fat characters on TV, and if they are, the characters are stereotypes obsessed with either eating or losing weight; they aren’t fully developed characters. Similarly, there may be female villains, but there aren’t female jerkwads on the side of good, as Dom recently pointed out. This fear of the so-called “unfeminine” only adds to continuing negative attitudes toward women, while doing nothing to advance the creation of more varied, interesting characters and plotlines.
The Women of Elm Street: Nancy Thompson
It’s time. It is finally time.
Months ago, I began a series of posts in which I endeavored to celebrate the female leads of the Nightmare on Elm Street series. It’s my favorite horror franchise and has many excellent qualities, not the least of which is its celebration of female heroines, so the choice seemed an obvious one. I got through most of these leading ladies in a timely manner, but when it came time to write about the original and greatest protagonist of this series, I found myself incapable of accomplishing the task.
How could I put into words all that is so incredible about Nancy Thompson? How could I do justice to the character who is most responsible for my love of this series and, on a larger scale, the whole horror genre? I was locked in indecision and simply avoided the topic, but now that it’s October and I’m fully immersed in horror and the supernatural, it is finally time to finish this series.
Here we go. Spoilers after the jump.
Pacific Rim, Shut Up and Take My Money
Thursday night we hit the drive-in to celebrate my roommate’s birthday, grabbing a double-feature of Pacific Rim and Man of Steel. I’d already seen the latter, but it wasn’t exactly a hardship to watch it a second time. Mostly I was just really, really excited to see Pacific Rim, which I’ve been looking forward to for months.
As you might know, Pacific Rim is that rarest of creatures: a science fiction film not based on any existing source material, written and directed by a person of color and starring several actors of color in its main roles. It looked to be a smart, exciting, kaiju-smashing epic, which was really just an added bonus, because I’d have paid good money just to watch Idris Elba dramatically read a phone book.
Thankfully, and unsurprisingly, it was just as good as I hoped it would be.
The Women of Elm Street: Kristen Parker
Kristen Parker faced Freddy Krueger in the third and fourth installments of the Nightmare series. In Kristen’s debut in A Nightmare on Elm Street 3: The Dream Warriors she was played by Patricia Arquette, and she was portrayed by Tuesday Knight in the following film The Dream Master.
These two films are two of my favorites in the series and Kristen really benefits from being in two of the most fun installments in the franchise. In her two-movie arc she goes from being the one who is learning about Freddy and who must reluctantly face him, to the character who teaches others about this mysterious killer and tries to take ownership of her dreams. Kristen is a little different from the other women I’ve talked about in this series because she’s not really the clear-cut lead of either of the films she’s in, but she still works as a heroine of the series. You’ll have to read on under the cut to see why! Continue reading
The Women of Elm Street: The One-Offs
In the long history of the Nightmare series (at least seven films spanning 10 years, or nine films spanning 26 years if you count those apocryphal additions) there were of course some women who only led the fight against the villainous Fred Krueger for one film. These women are Lisa Webber of A Nightmare on Elm Street 2: Freddy’s Revenge and Maggie Burroughs of Freddy’s Dead: The Final Nightmare.
Unfortunately, these are two of my least favorite movies in the series. Starting with Freddy’s Revenge, it had the problem that is so common when a surprise hit is given an unplanned sequel in that it didn’t understand what was great about the original and failed to re-capture its magic. Its main problems were replacing the female lead with a male and going with a concept that almost entirely did away with the nightmare aspect by having Freddy reincarnate himself in the real world.
Now, if this movie was so bad and didn’t even feature a female lead, why am I talking about it? Well, I do want to give it credit for trying to push the series into new territory rather than being a retread of the original (just because the risk didn’t exactly pay off doesn’t mean it wasn’t admirable) but also because it played with the typical gender roles of horror movies.
The Moeblob vs. the Strong Female Character
It’s been a while since I’ve talked about anime, but this is something that really annoys me about anime’s popular female characters. Some vocabulary before we start:
Moeblob, via urbandictionary: “A character who is moe to the point of lacking almost any other definable traits, physically or character-wise. Cuteness taken to an unappealing level.”
Strong Female Characters, (as opposed to strong female characters), also via urbandictionary: “A hostile, violent, and shallow female character based around what a cynical male writer thinks is “female empowerment”. Such characters usually dress in some kind of fetish outfit…” These are best illustrated by Kate Beaton, from whom I’ve also lifted the capital letter-wielding nomenclature.
Okay, so now that we’re all up to speed, here’s the thing that grinds my gears about popular female characters in anime: they’re almost guaranteed to be a moeblob or a SFC. And while both of these types have some positive aspects, neither of them constitutes a realistic portrayal of a female character, and both perpetuate irritating mindsets and stereotypes. Continue reading
So You Want to Be a Strong Empowered Female Character? The Hawkeye Initiative Can Help
Sometimes Tumblr likes to think of itself as the Internet’s bastion of social justice. Just last week Tumblr exploded with scathing critiques of an old post from “Guardians of the Galaxy” director James Gunn, which initiated both a petition to have him removed from his job and an apology from Gunn. And now the Tumblr social justice machine is at it again with their most hilarious attempt yet: the Hawkeye Initiative.