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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. FifthView

    FifthView Istar

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    The problem seems to arise naturally when dealing with characters who are significantly more powerful than other characters and involves how we communicate the power differential. Interestingly, this issue plays into the concept of "chosen ones" also, judging by the nearby thread on that topic. Weakness and strength may be real issues, the relative disparity may be an important element in the story, but either weakness or strength and the disparity can be drawn in a ridiculous way.

    Sometimes, maybe, the power difference is truly ridiculous. Any normal person in an action-filled scene with Superman is simply going to pale in comparison. Unless of course the director throws a block of Kryptonite into the scene, allowing the woman/man an opportunity to save him.

    There are some good examples however.

    I think that Merry and Pippin in the first LOTR movie, cornered along with the much stronger Boromir, were handled well. Their rock-throwing had some effect, the situation was impossible not only for them but also Boromir, and picking up swords at the end to charge the Uruk-hai may have been ineffectual, but they were limited on options and had a very effective emotional reaction to Boromir's death. (Effective for the viewer, heh.)

    The end of Stranger Things worked also, for at least two identical reasons. The monster was already shown to be quite powerful, and the situation was impossible already.
    Fortunately, their weak slingshot defense had a more powerful, erm, backup. (Rerverse situation: weakling boys being saved by a strong female character.)

    At those moments, I felt dread for the two sets of characters, particular at that moment in Stranger Things. The power differential was absurd, and this made it frightening.

    I do think one problem with some other scenarios might be the fact that whoever is the weaker character might just happen to fall into a particular religious or ethnic class, or might be one sex or sexual orientation, or whatever. This could trigger some readers/viewers, and not without cause if the general setup and writing is bad. So being more creative in setting up the characters and situations, while being conscientious, can only be a good thing, I think.
     
    Last edited: May 4, 2017
  2. Trick

    Trick Auror

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    Couldn't agree more. I think Batman stands out because he is merely human, though highly skilled. Iron Fist also; yes, he has a fist that punches through walls blah blah, but he's basically just a master martial artist. Batman has devices that could do what his fist does so... they're pretty similar.

    Perhaps the power differential isn't great enough in those situations and so the Slap the Joker moments seem patronizing and belittling instead of being demonstrative of the futility of fighting supers when you're not a super.
     
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  3. pmmg

    pmmg Auror

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    Just want to go on record and say, I did not really find Rachel Dawes slapping of the joker to be patronizing. Though, in the movie I think she actually punches him, and he seems affected by it. The part that bothered me is Christian Bale's gruff voice trying cutting in. In activity prior, she actually seems quite frightened of the joker. Anyway...

    I guess I would ask, how many of you approach your characters with thoughts like "Uh, if I don't change this scene the women readers will think I write weak female characters?" Just write them as they are. Some are weak. No need to apologize.
     
  4. RedAngel

    RedAngel Minstrel

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    I think that especially since Rachel finds out that Batman is Bruce in Batman Begins. She had to of known that He would be there at the party when the Joker arrived. And rather than letting the old man get his throat slit she bought bruce some time by speaking up. She does get more fearful as the scene goes on. But I think that as the tension grows that is the last thing she can do to distance herself from the Joker until Batman finally arrives.

    It did not bother me the first time I saw the scene. But after rewatching it I still did not mind her outburst as the plasuability of her and the actions she takes does make some sense as it seems out of character for her.
     
  5. Annoyingkid

    Annoyingkid Banned

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    I don't like the idea if romance or sex makes her no longer act aggressive. Makes it seem like she was just sexually frustrated this whole time. If she develops out of that aggression, it has to be carefully and slowly done I think. I would not want to see her go from one of the few willing to call out the MC's flaws, to someone vacuous and just there to be lovey dovey with the MC. And how come she-elves can't seem to find dudes their own damn species? Maybe that's why so many interpretations of elves are fading? The females seem to go after humans, dwarves (Tauriel WHY) and everything in between before those poor elf males!
     
    Last edited: May 7, 2017
  6. RedAngel

    RedAngel Minstrel

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    Lol you bring up a good point about the Elves. Maybe the men started that trend and the women don't want to keep the species going and have a fancy for mortals? You never hear about the male elvish conquests on other races. funny.
     
  7. [​IMG]
     
    TheCrystallineEntity likes this.
  8. ^That made me laugh. :)
     
  9. Speaking of elves, The Tale of Beren and Luthien is one of my favourite stories, especially since Luthien basically saves Beren all by herself, and does most of the work on the Silmaril quest. :cool:
     
    Ewolf20 likes this.
  10. Ewolf20

    Ewolf20 Minstrel

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    when i hear the term strong, it has this connotation that the character has to be strong in the sense of skills rather than their merits of the characterization. I mostly hate the term as it limits the potential of an author to write different female characters. they don't all have to be badass warriors wielding bows and arrows or swords, they should be characters with agency, flaws, and motives. that's what a lot of people are missing when it comes to writing female characters in fiction.
     
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  11. X Equestris

    X Equestris Maester

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    I don't think I'd say "everybody loves" that. Not if you're using love in the sense of considering it good behavior. It's pretty consistently portrayed as one of his biggest flaws. Refusing to trust his allies to perform competently gets Bruce unmasked at the end of Arkham Knight, and sees each of them individually captured during Death of the Family. Batman seems to have learned from that one by the time of Endgame, since he ropes them in once he actually has a plan.

    To address the larger point of this behavior toward allies being looked more harshly upon in female characters, I'd broadly agree. There are a few exceptions, though. Jessica Jones in her Netflix series is the most prominent one that comes to mind.

    On a side note, I just realized how old this thread was before it got necro'd.
     
  12. Annoyingkid

    Annoyingkid Banned

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    I meant fans love it. The same people who'd call a female who tried it a bossy Mary Sue.
     
  13. X Equestris

    X Equestris Maester

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    Every time I see Batman fans talk about the shutting out of allies and such, it's almost universally agreed to be the most frustrating/annoying thing about him. If they love it, they love it because it's a good flaw.

    No doubt there are some fans, and even some writers, that like it and actually consider it a positive. And no doubt some of them have double standards along gender lines. But I can't say I've found them very common.
     
  14. Annoyingkid

    Annoyingkid Banned

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    It's not a flaw. They like him being the most dominant, smartest person in the room and flaunting it against superpowered heroes as well as villains. Which is why DC keep doing it and why he keeps selling.

    Often the more accomplished the female character the more violent the response:

    Well unless her clothing is invincible, you could show that there is some realism.
    It can be used against them as it is a grab-able thing that they can be tossed around
    by, so pull all the stops out and make it as gritty and nasty as you seem to want to
    portray it. Hell you even show how much they don't care by using her breasts against
    her, by thrashing her around by them.g. Get freaking gruesome and
    have one of these horrible beings actually tear them off. It would definitely
    be one hell of a twist, that no one would see coming.


    - Poster about my story's main character on another writing forum.

    How Dragonball fans reacted to Kale and Caulifla, two female super saiyans on Kanzenshuu.com:

    Poster 1 : It would be nice if Frieza could cut off Caulifla's head to make Kale angry and then, kill Kale as well by ripping her heart off. That would be a cool scene
    . [​IMG]

    Poster 2: If Freeza does get to romp about tearing the U6 Saiyans limb from proverbially bloody limb then it will have been facilitated in-part by Jiren's lack of attentiveness.


    Poster 3: Freeza being sadistic is where Nakao's performance shines the most. So seeing him torture and curb stomp the U6 Saiyans would be the ultimate form of fan service for me


    Three different posters, same topic. All actual quotes.

     
  15. X Equestris

    X Equestris Maester

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    I'm not sure which Batman media you've been consuming, because the whole "pushing out allies" thing has been very clearly portrayed as a major flaw throughout both Scott Snyder and Tom King's runs. You can find similar sentiments all the way back to Dark Victory and Hush, where it wreaks havoc with Bruce's love life. DC's position on that character trait is obvious.

    And in the few female character's I've seen with the trait, it is likewise portrayed as a flaw.
     
  16. Strong means different things to different people.
     
  17. X Equestris

    X Equestris Maester

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    Indeed. I'd agree with Ewolf's definition. It's about agency, flaws, and motives, not just physical prowess.
     
    TheCrystallineEntity likes this.
  18. Annoyingkid

    Annoyingkid Banned

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    Again you miss my point. We're told it's a "flaw" in the story, but to readers it's actually something they find cool, appealing and edgy about the character.

    Darth Vader choking people out is also a "flaw" but it's a major part of his popularity.

    The point I'm making is the fans don't see it as a flaw as they would never want it to change. Whereas when a female character does it, she gets seen by these fans as an unlikeable Mary Sue.
     
  19. X Equestris

    X Equestris Maester

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    As I already said, every Batman fan I've ever seen mention the trait in question considers it a flaw, and one of the his biggest ones at that. Are there some that miss the point? Probably, but they're certainly not the majority.

    Never seen anyone list "choking people" as a reason they liked Vader. His popularity tends to rest on his imposing presence and effectiveness.

    The crowd that cries Mary Sue at a hint of an active female character can mostly be ignored. Sales and ratings figures make it pretty clear they're fringe at best.
     
  20. Annoyingkid

    Annoyingkid Banned

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    Because those Batman fans are telling you it's a flaw in universe. But fictional characters aren't buying books. So all that matters is if it's well received or not. And among mainstream culture it's very well received. Period. No debate. Whereas the female characters who act like that get denigrated with labels like "Man with breasts" or "Mary Sue" or "Strong Female Character".

    I don't see how you can call their voices "fringe" when it's been the dominant voice in Hollywood until recently. It also remains to be seen if the high sales of these diversity "firsts" like Wonder Woman can be replicated. The first feature length WW movie ever was always going to have high sales. The real test is in repeating it. Star Wars The Last Jedi could not come close to repeating the success of the first disney Star Wars film. The new Tomb Raider film is running at a loss, the all female Ghostbusters tanked, the Black Widow film is a no show, the new Oceans 8 remains to be seen.

    You'll forgive me if I don't follow your advice of sticking my head in the sand.
     
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