I'm Strong, But I Can't Help Myself

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So first Kim referred to it, then Karin and finally Janina, so yes, I should definitely read that article, right?

So you know what I say? I say screw Strong Female Characters. What we need now are some Weak Female Characters. My arguments below the fold…

The arguments are solid, indeed. So-called “strong female characters” are usually1 perfect human beings: physically strong, clever, intelligent, incredibly good looking – but in the end, they need to be rescued by the dorky everyman, and then we are back at the damsel in distress.

It is incidentally also where Metroid: Other M went – unfortunately.

What the author of the article calls for are believable characters.

Good characters, male or female, have goals, and they have flaws. Any character without flaws will be a cardboard cutout. […] They don’t have to be physically strong, although they can be (The Bride, the women from Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon, Ripley, Sarah Connor, and even the half-naked Faye Valentine from Cowboy Bebop are strong Strong female characters). Strong just means they have their own goals that move beyond “I want to do whatever the male hero wants to do” or “I want to marry the male hero.” “I want to have a baby” is moderately better – moderately.

<Parenthesis> Ripley

The interesting thing about Ripley is the fact that this character was just that in the beginning: a name, a surname at that, without any gender attached. This is probably why in the end the character could not defined by its gender, but by its goals and flaws.

It’s also the reason why later heroines did not work out:

Most action heroines haven’t come close to the appeal of Sigourney Weaver’s Ripley. Jennifer Garner far from electrified the box office as “Elektra,” and it’s not being catty to call Halle Berry’s “Catwoman” a dog.

Geena Davis’ career was busted by her failed attempts in “Cutthroat Island” to play a pirate who blows away the villain with a cannonball or, in “The Long Kiss Goodbye,” a top-secret government assassin.

They were likely written as women, as supposedly strong female characters (instead of strong characters (female)).

<Parenthesis> Salt

Which brings me to Salt, where the main character was originally written as being male, until the lead was offered to Angelina Jolie. I haven’t seen Salt yet, anyone up for it to see how that character works?

</Paranthesis> </Paranthesis>

Which brings me back to games – where the problem is, weirdly enough, even more pronounced, as blogged about before. Weirdly? Because games would have the possibility to write characters like Ripley’s – a name, with goals and flaws, but without a gender attached. Some games do that (like Shepard in Mass Effect – but is it really neutral, or depend some choices/traits on your chosen gender?), but they are hard to find – just visit the Border House Blog to read more about that (really, a good blog, go pay them a visit!).

Most of the games choose to go with the easy clichés they know they can reach the young male populace with. But hey – why should they not deserve awesome strong characters of either gender (and, if I may add, any sexual orientation)?


  1. In this article: In action flicks. ↩︎

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