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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. Annoyingkid

    Annoyingkid Banned

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  2. ^Oh, don't talk to me about that series. I have bad memories.
     
  3. deilaitha

    deilaitha Sage

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    I remember a lot of people didn't like Korra from Nickelodeon's The Legend of Korra because she was too conflicted and scared so much of the time, despite her aggressive attitude. They perceived her as weak and said it made women seem like weak characters. But really, she didn't have that much more conflict than her predecessor Aang, from the previous series Avatar: The Last Airbender. I do think this is an example of people perpetuating this idea that if a woman isn't completely badass all the time, or if she shows emotion or fear, it's weak--yet when male characters do this, it shows depth of character. It is unfair--and I think maybe a little sexist. (By the way, if you haven't seen these US made anime shows, they are worth watching.)

    Personally, I love conflicted characters of either gender. I like characters to be weak, eventually discovering their strength. I think a great example of a female character in this model is in Donaldson's The Second Chronicles of Thomas Covenant the Unbeliever. Linden Avery is strong in her own way, but also weak and conflicted inside. She is never what I would call a 'badass', though she does engage occasionally in what might be called 'badass' behavior as her character arc unfolds. Then, in The Last Chronicles of Thomas Covenant the Unbeliever, she really unfolds as this super kick-butt character...yet she is still nurturing and caring.

    I think the biggest problem with overly aggressive female characters is that they are one-note, just like the stereotypical male jock character. If it doesn't work for men, it won't work for women.

    But that's just me.
     
    Last edited: Apr 26, 2017
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  4. FifthView

    FifthView Istar

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    Recently I've been listening to old Writing Excuses episodes. One addressed the subject of melodrama, and the crew gave the classical description: it's where every character in the tale has only one emotion. So you might have your fretful character, your angry character, your lustful character, your sad character....And the character reacts to everything from that one emotional state. I don't know if that is truly the classical definition (as opposed to what we usually mean by melodrama now), but it fits what you are saying.

    *Edit: In case anyone's interested: Writing Excuses 5.7: Avoiding Melodrama | Writing Excuses

    Not terribly sure this would relate. I haven't encountered many one-note aggressive female characters in my own reading; so I'm curious enough to pose a survey question. Do those writers tend to make other characters in the novel one-note as well?
     
    Last edited: Apr 26, 2017
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  5. Annoyingkid

    Annoyingkid Banned

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    Isn't Korra alot older than Aang? I haven't seen the show but she certainly appears so. If her conflict and fear is comparable to Aang, I can see why there would be a problem there. In general, while male characters have conflict and fear and cry at times one notices that they don't stay in that state for very long. Assertiveness takes over quickly. When women are the leads or at least the subject, because the writer has a vague idea of women being more emotional and less proactive, there's a tendency to belabor the point that she's scared and vulnerable.
     
  6. deilaitha

    deilaitha Sage

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    I want to say that Korra is 15 or 16 in season 1. It's been a while since I watched it. So yeah, with Aang being eleven...that's a difference of four or five years. They definitely make Korra a lot moodier--playing up the teenager thing, I suppose. Her conflict is also different from Aang's, and more appropriate to her age. I thought she was a believable character, personally.

    I suppose it depends upon the writer whether to belabor the point of being scared and vulnerable. I've read some stories where the male character is just as scared. I think the difference is that men are culturally trained to express fear through anger, which comes across as assertiveness, rather than an expression of fear, which is what it actually is. Women are taught that fear is an acceptable emotion, whereas men are not.
     
  7. Seira

    Seira Minstrel

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    Just my opinion but I don't think how fast a girl can run or how many guys she can beat up makes her strong. I don't think giving a girl an attitude makes her strong. My sister is like a mouse. She's so meek, and gentle and timid, she wouldn't say boo to a goose yet she has endured so much crap and I can't believe how after nine years of what she's been through she hasn't broken yet. She is the strongest person I know because she keeps her hope, and can look death in the face and just keep pushing past it. I don't know where she gets it from. So with that in mind I don't know what to say about this article. It seems to be male writers writing women.
     
  8. Annoyingkid

    Annoyingkid Banned

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    Sounds like the traditional fairytales, Snow White, Sleeping Beauty, A Little Princess, The Little Matchstick Girl, Rapunzel, these are all stories with leads who endure a great deal of misfortune with quiet nobility with no ability to effect change themselves. That is left to the men. But is strength additive? Is a character who can impose driving change on the plot and endure not stronger than a character that can just endure things with a noble spirit? I believe the answer's yes. Powers and abilities are tools to impose change on the world. How fast one can run or how many guys she can beat up doesn't inherently signal strength, but it does if it's used in a way that drives story forward. Bonus if it's done in a creative and entertaining way.
     
  9. But...the little match girl is just a little girl. Her father beats her, her mother and beloved grandmother are dead, she doesn't even have shoes, and she dies alone in the snow. She doesn't so much endure as fade away. No dashing prince comes to the rescue. Also, have you ever read the original version [or one of the original versions of] Sleeping Beauty? The prince basically rapes her while she's asleep, so I guess he did change her from a certain perspective. In the Grimm version of Snow White, the prince's kiss doesn't awaken her; when he lifts her coffin to take with him [does that mean he's a necrophiliac?], a bit of the poisoned apple falls out of her throat. A Little Princess was written in 1905, though I suppose it could be a traditional fairytale.
    But, then, what do I know? Everything in the above paragraph could be completely wrong. :D
     
  10. The little match girl isn't much of a 'story' imo. Nothing really happens, except that she dies.
     
  11. Some interpret it [such as in the fascinating book Women Who Run With The Wolves] as the matches being the girl's precious creativity or something very precious that she burns away in an effort to stay alive, literally sacrificing her vital force just to live a tiny bit longer. The fantasies that she constructs around the flames are the last sparks [no pun intended] of her creativity flashing for an exhausting moment, and then gone.
     
  12. Annoyingkid

    Annoyingkid Banned

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    The Batman treats his allies like dumb children and everybody loves that. But when a woman acts half as aggressive towards allies thats a no go apparently. Dr House , Sherlock Holmes, hell Eric Cartman, lovable jerkasses that as a role seem off limits to females. The open question is if writers should shy away from the portrayal because of current attitudes in an attempt to find success, or instead take up a form of social activism as creative people to find ways for it to work even though we really don't have to. It'd be the writer's choice.
     
  13. Not necessarily. If the woman was consistent it would be different. Often times it's s to e off incident. Like Peggy Csrter in captain America shooting at Cap fir being sexually assaulted. Never had she shown a propensity for that kind of mania before that incident and never had she shown it again.
     
  14. FifthView

    FifthView Istar

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    I've always loved Glenn Close's role in Damages. I've fantasized about a crossover movie: her going head to head with Dr. House, some kind of doctor-lawyer confrontation, tied to her having a serious illness and his troubles with a malpractice suit.
     
  15. TheKillerBs

    TheKillerBs Inkling

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    Eric Cartman is lovable? The kid is a flipping psychopath.
     
  16. Annoyingkid

    Annoyingkid Banned

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    So is Darth Vader. Culturally beloved. Not loved as in you'd want a relationship of any kind with them.
     
  17. RedAngel

    RedAngel Minstrel

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    Gillian Anderson's character Stella Gibson in The Fall was by far my favorite "Strong" female character.
     
  18. Trick

    Trick Auror

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    Don't know if you're familiar with Dave Chappelle's recent two piece special on Netflix but he has a joke about a gay superhero, really more of a story but since he's a comedian, I guess it's still technically a joke or a bit, and it is excellent. In fact, in the setup for the joke, he's pitching it as a movie idea to a producer and I totally saw potential in it as a TV/online series.
     
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  19. FifthView

    FifthView Istar

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    I'm not familiar with that.

    Well, there is Deadpool, who is a kind of pansexual, but maybe more of a......fluxsexual? The co-creator said, "DP brain cells are in CONSTANT FLUX. He can be gay one minute, hetero the next, etc. ALL ARE VALID." This is due to the way his body constantly regenerates; his brain cells are in flux. I wonder if any of that will appear in the movies.

    My earlier comment just sprang from the idea that the type of character needing to be saved, or who might "slap the Joker" in a way the writers/directors might use to show spunkiness (albeit ineffectual), is not incredibly uncommon in cinema and isn't tied to only female characters. So if a gay guy could be shown doing that and need to be saved by a gay hero....heh.

    I think there's a group example of it also. In the first Tobey Maguire Spider-man movie, there's that scene where he's dangling near a bridge and the crowd of "normals" on the bridge start throwing rocks and debris at Green Goblin. Huzzah! Common, unpowered people can show guts too! (I think it's slightly funny that this scene might have arisen for the same reason that "slapping the Joker" is sometimes used for female characters in movies. People have complained about weak female characters, so show them having guts. But people have also complained about too much focus on superheroes, where the little people exist only to be saved.)

    But in other movies, the trope is used for comedic effect. Some silly character who's been hiding from all the danger picks up a rock, frying pan, or whatever and tries hurting the bad guy(s), for laughs.

    But I added in my previous comment that I didn't want too much read into it, because I don't want to make light of an issue that a) does really exist, and that b) does upset people.
     
  20. Trick

    Trick Auror

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    I think I can identify with this one a bit and would be offended by it should I feel it was directed at a group I'm a part of so I completely agree. In fact, I even think I've seen that happen now that I'm thinking about it (I'm just a plain old hetero white male so I don't tend to actually have experiences with this kind of thing but in this case it would have been a religious thing - can't think of the movie though...) but I really do agree that it is, at best, lazy writing and, at worst, an intentional shot at the person or group.

    While it's true that some people cower, some people fight but are ineffective, and some people fight back effectively, there seems to be no logic in any of those traits belonging to a specific group. Developing characters better would eliminate this as a negative trope and probably eliminate it from movies almost entirely.
     
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