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  1. senkacekic
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    senkacekic New Member

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    Lack of "strong" female characters?

    Discussion in 'Character Development' started by senkacekic, Mar 12, 2011.

    I often wondered why in all the good stories (movies and books) I know nearly all the cool characters are always male. I'm not a fan of romances, romantic comedies or melodramas, so I can't really talk about that, but for anything else...
    Whenever there's a protagonist who is really interesting - like not being 2-dimensional and boring, not being a sissy whiner and not being too perfect - it's like a 95% possibility that this character is a man. If the character makes the audience laugh, it's even worse... like 99,99% chance to be male.
    If someone would ask me to name my 20 favourite characters from movies, books and stuff they'd be exclusively men.

    Just a few days ago I read the following article:
    http://www.overthinkingit.com/2008/08/18/why-strong-female-characters-are-bad-for-women/

    That's quite what I think. If there are female protagonists, they're either kind of embellishment for the story's hero (to be saved from danger, mostly), or it's that "Oh I'm so independent and strong and I fight like Bruce lee while wearing just underwear and high heels in battle" type of woman.

    I'm SO annoyed, really!

    I don't understand it, anyway. Why isn't there something like a female Jack Sparrow? :( At least I never found one. For me it's easier to write female protagonists (that's because I'm a woman, I guess?) but I start to feel like a bra burner just because in my latest story there are four female main characters and only one and a half men (the half man is just a half because he leaves the story in the middle). People who have been told about the story instantly started to ask something like "Where are the men in this story?" or "Don't you think you need some more male characters?"
    Whereas no one would wonder about a group consisting of, say, 6 men and only one woman, or even only men.

    I don't really understand it. Why is that? Anyone else wondering about the same thing?
     
  2. Smoke
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    Smoke Contributing Member

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    Is it tradition left over from the time when female writers were considered such a joke that they had to publish under masculine pen names?

    As for modern times, there's probably still a stereotype that women go for romances and that action-flick goers are only going to be interested in a female lead if she's showing plenty of T&A.
     
  3. Elgaisma
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    Elgaisma Contributing Member Contributor

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    Men are easier to write - at least I think so lol I do have a few good strong female characters in my books but they are few and far between - often they are evil or canon fodder.

    Think it is because I observe men more not being one myself. I do have some amazing female characters though - Queen Beatrice in my first one really stands out, she is fun, sassy and smart brought up surrounded by men lol

    Crown Princess Alice in a later book is her great grandaughter. I am hoping to make her my main protagnoist - she is dating Merlin and I want to marry them off.

    I have great minor character females and my 'devil'/Matriach of Evil is female - originally she opposite another female my eve type character.
     
  4. Booker
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    Booker New Member

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    I suspect you'll find more women in literary, character-based fiction than in genre, plot-based fiction. That's simply because the archetypal female characters tend to be be-ers (people who solve their problems by trying to be different) than do-ers (people who solve problems through taking action). Be-ers come off as bland in a story that excludes the characters' inner life.

    Hence Alexander Pope's sexist remarks to a female friend:

    Nothing so true as what you once let fall
    "Most women have no characters at all."
    Matter too soft a lasting mark to bear
    And best distinguished by black, brown, or fair
     
  5. Forkfoot
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    Forkfoot Contributing Member Contributor

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    We'll start seeing more strong yet real female leads, and the first ones to pull off writing them will do quite well for themselves, since there's so little competition in that area right now.
     
  6. Manav
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    Manav Contributing Member

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    Booker is right, I read mostly literary fiction and there is never lack of female characters. I think this is true for movies as well.

    On a side note, I can imagine Angelina Jolie as the female Jack Sparrow. I would totally love it.
     
  7. madhoca
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    madhoca Contributing Member Contributor

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    It must depend what you read.

    Most books I read have a woman as the strong, central character. And no, I don't just read romances. I like thrillers, mysteries, and historical too. What about Patricia Cornwell's Kay Scarpetta, the forensic examiner?

    Even as a child, the books I read often had strong female main characters, e.g. the Swallows and Amazons series--I saw myself as Nancy--and the mother was good, too, a no-nonsense Australian managing while her husband was away. There were loads of time-travelling books in the 1950-60s with girl heroines, and the 'Sadler's Well's' ballet series, or all the Pullein-Thompson pony books...yep, they mostly had interesting girls.

    Come to think of it, maybe you're right! Children's books these days, while being 'unisex', are perhaps more sexist in excluding girls than those old 'for girls' classics.
     
  8. Forkfoot
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    Forkfoot Contributing Member Contributor

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    This is really lame and stupid. You keep doing what you're doing and be part of the solution.
     
  9. Eunoia
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    Eunoia Contributing Member Contributor

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    Elizabeth? :p

    I don't really know why, I guess it's because males are seen to be the 'strong, physical, dominant' gender, unlike females. I guess we're still stuck in being traditional and adhering to stereotypes, and authors are just catering to what the audience wants.

    It also depends on what you mean by 'strong female leads'. Do you mean it in a letusfightallthetimeandbeallviolent way, or in a survival way or what? Do we just want a strong female lead so that they can get action like the male leads do?
     
  10. Elgaisma
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    Elgaisma Contributing Member Contributor

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    Having said that i can name plenty of female main characters I love to read that are strong:

    Margery Whittaker (Mist Over Pendle)
    Jane Eyre
    Elizabeth Bennett (Pride and Prejudice)
    Jo March (Little Women, Good Wives, Little Men and Jo's Boys)
    Nancy Drew
    Temperence Brennan

    Cartoons:
    She-Ra
    Atomic Betty

    Films:
    Sister Mary Clarence

    Sure I have more I can think of lol but working right now.
     
  11. w176
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    w176 Contributing Member Contributor

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    More and more of cases of strong female characters pop up, but then they are sort of never the main character but one of the sidekick character (along with a black guy or more recurrently gay guy).

    I classical example of this is Hermione in Harry Potter.

    Or the that strong female sidekick character also has to bee the love/sexual interest of the main character.
     
  12. Show
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    Show Contributing Member Contributor

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    I am hardly a writer anywhere near professional level but I do have a 3-novel series based around a female protagonist who I consider very strong indeed. She isn't the "Bruce Lee" type and she doesn't serve to embellish a male protagonist. Sure, the story has strong men too but the main protagonist is a strong female.

    I think strong females exist in fiction a lot. You just have to know where to look! :) IDK if the OP would consider my character strong enough but I'd hope so.
     
  13. Smoke
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    Smoke Contributing Member

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    It's been a while since I've read Jhereg, but somewhere in that series, the lead's love-interest was pretty much his equal, and part of his ability to hold her is that he can cook. I think the book in question was Teckla.

    Look up the ballad "They Called her Babylon."
     
  14. Trish
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    Trish I've been deleted.. again Contributor

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    I don't really know how to answer the OP's question without the answer to Eunoia's question. What are you calling strong female? The book I am currently writing is all about the strong female MC....because she has no one else. But she's strong primarily in a survivalist type of way, a kind of mama bear backed into a corner way. No karate training, no guns, just the ability to keep going. Would she qualify?
     
  15. Forkfoot
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    Forkfoot Contributing Member Contributor

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    OP raises an objection to the two-dimensional "Oh I'm so independent and strong and I fight like Bruce lee while wearing just underwear and high heels in battle" type of woman. She doesn't need to be kicking men's asses to be strong; that's just Hollywood's lame and superficial fix to the problem she's addressing.
     
  16. Speedy
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    Speedy Contributing Member Contributor

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    I read to much fantasy, thus lame arse felmale characters (esp leads). The strong ones make me want to vomit my organs out.
     
  17. Ellipse
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    Ellipse Contributing Member Contributor

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    I think she was probably stronger than him. I mean, she did manage to kill him despite being wounded and dying.

    Both characters had to get rezzed after that battle. :rolleyes:
     
  18. Trish
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    Trish I've been deleted.. again Contributor

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    So my MC would qualify then. I agree that I find it annoying that in hollywood they always seem to have to be saved and often even the bruce lee types in heels have to be saved by their male counterparts.. I have had the same issue as OP. People asking me where her happy ending is, where her man is, when she's going to win the lottery, or some millionaire is going to pull her out of the gutter. It's not Pretty Woman for goodness sakes. I feel OP's pain.
     
  19. Ellipse
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    Ellipse Contributing Member Contributor

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    Unfortunately, it's not just Hollywood that uses this stereotype. A lot of fantasy authors portray woman that are 'ridiculously' strong. In one of David Gemmell's novels, at the beginning he has a female character that is kidnapped and raped. Two days later, it may as well have not even happened for all the effect it has on her.

    It's like writers are afraid to have a female character that is strong and feminine.:(
     
  20. Ged
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    Ged Senior Member

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    Mistborn has Vin; HP has Hermione; The Book Thief has Liesel (who's a girl, but hey), and so on.
     
  21. colorthemap
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    colorthemap Contributing Member

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    How about Fran from "The Stand" ?
     
  22. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    Don't forget Ripley from the Alien series of movies, Nikita, Annie Frost of Chase.

    In novels, there are private detectives like Kinsey Millhone and Carlotta Carlyle, and Kay Scarpetta.

    I think if you really look, you'll find strong women in just about every genre of fiction.

    Personally, I like creating female main characters who kick ass and take names.
     
  23. KillianRussell
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    KillianRussell Contributing Member

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    Since when does Jack Sparrow trump Scarlet O'Hara ?
    To use a contemporary example
    Since when does Jack Sparrow trump Wally Lamb's Dolores Price ?
     
  24. KillianRussell
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    KillianRussell Contributing Member

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    Hester Prynne, forced to wear a scarlet letter to atone for her adultery
     
  25. KillianRussell
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    KillianRussell Contributing Member

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    Lady Macbeth
     

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