A thread I made on Reddit regarding stock (overaggressive) "strong" female characters

Discussion in 'Writing Discussions' started by glutton, Apr 22, 2017.

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  1. glutton

    glutton Grandmaster

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    Some hype for "baeness" as I perceive it in regards to fictional female characters of course, but some interesting discussion too I think:

    A thought on the very aggressive type of "strong" female character people complain about being overused : Fantasy

    My main theory on why this archetype is overused (moreso in western fiction) is that many writers are concerned their female characters won't seem convincingly strong enough without it. If they are "really" impressive though (not necessarily in power, it could also just be awesome confidence or boldness in certain situations), they'll hardly come off as weak just because they cry or display a nurturing personality. Let them shine as brightly as male characters and they won't need the crutch of acting mean and angry all the time to seem strong. :D
     
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  2. pmmg

    pmmg Dark Lord

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    Just a short while ago there were no good movie roles for women, not it seems they are overly aggressive. Fact is, the current trend is for kick ass babes in fiction, and that trend will seem to continue. The poster on the other thread is asking why? I think to that lies along the lines of just some type of mass group understanding that all of sudden we need more women in these roles in front of our audiences. Maybe it will pass, maybe not.

    I will say, I am not sure I agree with the poster from reddit in that there is an over abundance of overly aggressive women. I wish he would have said some of the characters he had in mind when he was inspired to post. I do think there are a number that have me as a viewer saying things like 'only in hollywood'. I guess the issue I would raise for some of them is they are just not real. Kick ass babes are cool, for sure, but I do feel they are a little over played, and more than a few are not credible.

    But occasionally, as I see in all things really, some things are credible and that when it becomes super cool.

    Most recent example in my mind is wonder woman from the Batman vs Superman movie. DC has always done a good job, I felt, of showing where characters fell along the lines of who was more powerful than who, and nothing is more powerful than Superman that I can tell expect maybe God. (Yes, it was not a great movie). Here we have a scene where Superman is fighting Doomsday, and doomsday is supposed to be a character that is so unstoppable that Superman must give up his life to defeat him. Superman, just as matter of fact, is way more powerful than Wonder Woman (and WW is pretty powerful, granted). But then we see Wonder Woman slice off Doomsday's arm with her sword. That scene was to show that she is bad ass too, but that should never have happened. If WW can cut off his arm, she can cut off his head. And if she can cut off his head there is no need for Superman to make the ultimate sacrifice. So, in an effort to give WW some cred, we weakened the whole Superman vs Doomsday theme. I wish would have thought that through.


    If I compare the portrayal of WW to Vasquez in Aliens, Vasquez was bad ass, and they did not have to contrive some action where she gets to do something just for sake of it to make that show.
     
    Last edited: Apr 22, 2017
  3. glutton

    glutton Grandmaster

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    Depending on the writer (since comics are written by numerous writers with different interpretations) this is not always supposed to be the case, for example Gail Simone considered her Wonder Woman to be a 9 to Superman's 10 in strength and a peer of him in combat due to superior skill (and had her defeat a mind controlled Superman). With regard to Doomsday in the movie it was made to look like the kryptonite was needed to beat him, Wonder Woman sliced off his arm but he regrew it so it's not clear he couldn't have grown another head assuming she managed to take it.
     
  4. pmmg

    pmmg Dark Lord

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    Well, I am going to stick to the argument that if Doomsday can be cut to pieces, he can be defeated, and superman's sacrifice is not required, arguably, superman's sacrifice does not work in that movie and is part of the reason why it is not really a good movie. The power of Superman's sacrifice comes from the necessity that he make it, and that he makes the choice to do so to save everyone else.

    I would add list just about every warrior babe in Once upon a Time. I don't find any of those women credible. Their combat scenes are mostly set up to make them all look better, but to do so it requires that all the male characters behave somewhat unmanly. Its a chick show, so that's what its for, I guess.

    Next to them, I would put up the example of Katnis. I think she is for the most part credible. Maybe a little too skilled with a bow, but that don't bother me. Both the male characters in her life did not have to shrink to let her have her scenes. They just had their own issues which can happen.
     
  5. glutton

    glutton Grandmaster

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    I would guess that my own female characters would probably be considered un-credible for you, but that's what they are meant for after all. They are supposed to be exaggerated hyper-badass "cuties" who are often stronger than almost any guy in their worlds (and the few guys who might be stronger than them, it's not by enough that the girls' skill, resilience etc. is not enough to let them cope).
     
  6. pmmg

    pmmg Dark Lord

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    I would not know, I have not looked at your characters. But it sounds like the world has been created around such a reality, so....I will accept if that is how it is. You know, the last Anime I watched was called...(okay, I could not find it, something to do with Ice). Anyway, the idea was all the girls were in a school training to be the protectors of the planet, and all of them had some male counterpart who could enhance their powers but not really fight anything of the scale the girls could. Yes, the anime had a lot of risque stuff in it, and that was part of the appeal. It is true, I am sure, that none of that could ever possibly happen, but I went with it cause they had created the world such that that was their reality. For whatever reason, the girls were all super-warrior killers. So, yes, I can accept.

    Reading the Slap the Joker article, I feel I want to drift into his comments on racism, but not the purpose to this thread. I think his comment is probably right in that it was written by men who knew that needed not to have a shrinking violet, and they could not really come up with anything else. The Rachel Dawes scene did not bother me, but until I read the article, I had no memory of it either, so...I guess it did kind of amount to nothing. Meh, I like the 60's batman best anyway. Yvonne Craig may kick people with a big Ka-Pow on the screen, but I bought it. It worked for me.
     
    Last edited: Apr 22, 2017
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  7. glutton

    glutton Grandmaster

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    Yeah one of the first things established in most of my books is that female humans can be top of top tier, elite champion level physical fighters... usually by the MC or a major supporting character showing it XD

    BTW since I used the term "cuties" without explaining I use that term in a tongue in cheek fashion to describe my heroines who usually have multiple out of the following traits:

    -covered in scars
    -usually filthy
    -built like a tank
    -wielding a massive weapon
    -wearing bulky armor

    So "cutie" translates more to "intimidating presence." They're cuties to me though! :D

    PS. I think the anime you're referring to is Freezing.
     
  8. Garren Jacobsen

    Garren Jacobsen Dark Lord

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    I object to your use of the word bae.

    Notwithstanding my objection, I find this tripe maddening. No one would say that Mr. Smith in Mr Smith goes to Washington is a weak character. Why can't we have a strong female like that. Why feel the need to constantly make the woman punch a person. Why not outsmart him. Why not out plan?

    I think the over aggressive female is steeped in laziness and misunderstanding. Punching is easy to write and immediate and the sign of a lazy writer. Further, when a person hears strength they think physical not emotional or mental. A truly strong character can be physically weak but strong in spirit and mind and still be a strong character.
     
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  9. FifthView

    FifthView Istari

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    Well, this line seemed ridiculous to me, and very objectionable:

    "I named this trope after a scene in 2008’s inexplicably beloved The Dark Knight."

    But otherwise the article was spot-on, I think. At least, the point was well made, and I have difficulty objecting to that.

    It makes me wish even more for a superhero movie staring a gay superhero, where we could have his male love interest "Slap the Joker," heh. (But please don't read too much into this comment, heh.)
     
  10. Annoyingkid

    Annoyingkid Mystagogue

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    Why not both?
     
  11. Garren Jacobsen

    Garren Jacobsen Dark Lord

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    This post is useless without the meme. ;)
     
  12. Annoyingkid

    Annoyingkid Mystagogue

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    The reason they are overaggressive and have chips on their shoulders is because they're faux action girls. But the writer has to still sell their cred as warriors or whatever so has her being rude to allies with a chip on her shoulder to force the message that shes as tough as any man, because lord knows it won't get shown through legit, plot driving feats.

    When one writes their character with the mindset of properly showing why a character is respected, the need to compensate by having her punch men left and right and call herself a "Badass bitch" and "Not like other girls" disappears.
     
  13. valiant12

    valiant12 Mystagogue

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    Why one meme when you can have

    [​IMG]
     
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  14. Garren Jacobsen

    Garren Jacobsen Dark Lord

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    No me gusta.
     
  15. DragonOfTheAerie

    DragonOfTheAerie Valar Lord

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    This makes me inexplicably uncomfortable
     
  16. Devouring Wolf

    Devouring Wolf Mystagogue

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    I think one of the reasons this trope is so relevant in fantasy has to do with a misunderstanding of what agency is compounded with the modern setting of most fantasy. Feudal settings don't really lend themselves to gender equality (I'm not saying you can't do it, we are writing fantasy after all, but the idea that all people are equal is a pretty modern one)

    In my opinion some of the problem coming from the idea that if a woman is happy with her place in a sexist society then she must be a weak character. This is simply not true. In fact the female characters I respect most aren't the ones that rebel, but the ones who learn to play the game so well they end up with all the power and no one even realizes it (extra points if she works her way to the top using her mind instead of her body).
     
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  17. Penpilot

    Penpilot Staff Article Team

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    I don't know if it's overused, maybe just over noticed, just like the character that tells too many lame jokes and is trying too hard to be funny. Or the character that wears glasses and is always quoting science and math as it relates to the current situation is trying too hard to be smart.

    These things have always been around, and we're taking notice more because of people are paying more attention to this specific aspect.

    Doing stuff like this can be lazy writing. But it's also a form of short hand for establishing character types when there isn't a lot of room or need for character development. Short hand has it's place, but when you use it in place of character development for important characters, that's when it becomes an issue. Because if that's all their is to the character then IMHO they don't have any dimension, which, like I said, can be fine if that's all they character is meant to be.

    For me, characters can have any combination of traits, how ever many there are. And I find some of the most interesting ones to be ones that have traits that vary and in some cases are incongruent with their archetypes. To me, it gives them more dimension. After all humans are a bag of contradictions.

    There's no reason one can't have a butch female detective, who swears like a sailor, and can punch like a ton of bricks, but likes to dress in frilly pink dresses on days off and collects porcine unicorns. None of these things, to me, establishes a character as strong or weak. How the character deals with adversity and everything thrown their way determines that. And sometimes the answer is not one or the other, but a mixture.

    You can have a burly male detective who's completely in charge at work, kicks ass because he's all out of bubblegum, but goes home and gets physically and mentally abused by his wife.
     
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  18. DragonOfTheAerie

    DragonOfTheAerie Valar Lord

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    When I think of the stock "strong female character" I think of the Black Widow-type warrior badass who's beating up a dozen badguys at once. The Action Girl trope. Or else, a girl who is snarky and tough-acting but never...actually...does...anything?

    Nothing wrong with being able to beat up a dozen badguys at once (as long as you're not overly concerned with realism, those are difficult odds for even the best warriors), or with being snarky, but characters like that really often end up having no development. That is to say, a lot of variations on the "strong female character" are one-dimensional stock characters that end up in stories because they're easy to plug into a story. I guess. I don't really know.

    Edit: all this to say, a lot of the problem is lack of depth and character development. A more complex character would have multiple sides to her...

    Every discussion of strong female characters seems to get contentious. Why? Also, why is "strong female character" such a common term to hear? Do we know exactly what it means? What do we mean by strong?
     
    Last edited: Apr 22, 2017
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  19. Chessie

    Chessie Guest

    ^ The Black Widow trope is different than the action-girl one. Black Widow characters use their sex appeal to kill and outsmart. They act like assassins, basically. Action-girls use combat. One is more feminine while the other is tomboyish. (A simple explanation)
     
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