As a feminist who enjoys a lot of genres that aren’t usually lady-friendly, it always irks me when people claim they have strong, feminist characters in their stories, but in reality they’re neither of those things. Sometimes a character’s qualities are debatable, but I wanted to make a list of things that don’t necessarily make a strong female character:
1) She is a woman/girl. Okay, so you created a female character. That’s a good start. But even Bella Swan from Twilight is a woman and I wouldn’t call her a good representation of feminism and modern womanhood. Is your character reflective of real women, or is she part of a stereotype? Do you even know the kinds of problems real women face? Does she face appropriate obstacles?
2) She can kill people, ergo she is a strong woman. Being a strong woman does not necessarily mean she can bash in skulls or toss people across the room. It means that she is psychologically, emotionally, and sometime physically well developed and can hold her own against opponents. Yes, it is refreshing to see female characters that are not physically wimpy and dependent, but if her character isn’t fully fleshed out, she’s just a tool. Try to make your female characters as complex and realistic in the story as possible.
3) She is a feminist. Okay, who says she’s a feminist? You, or her actions? Being a feminist is more than just saying “I’m a feminist.” Does she illuminate women’s issues during her story arc? Does she legitimately stand for all women’s rights, or just a stereotype of women’s rights (i.e. fauxminism)? Don’t make a straw feminist (see Feminist Frequency’s video on the Straw Feminist).
4) She doesn’t act like other women. Okay, this is really common in genres like fantasy and scifi, and it’s really problematic. First, you are assuming that all women act in a certain manner, which is not the case. Second, this most likely means that you are not writing a female character, you are writing a male character with boobs. This isn’t necessarily a good representation of womanhood. The point of avoiding stereotypes and cliches when writing for a female character is not to eliminate femininity and womanhood, but instead to adopt a more enlightened and diverse perspective on womanhood. Many things factor into a woman’s life that make her unique from other women. You have to consider things like class, race, culture, situation, history, and other perspectives that you design for her. This is also why it’s important to have multiple women in any story, because if you write five very diverse male characters but only one female character, it is easy to assume from the audience’s perspective that all women behave as that one female character does, and this is part of why sexism is so prevalent in media today.
5) She is the main character. Again, this kind of goes back to point #1. It is great to have women in main roles instead as just a sidekick or love interest, but if she isn’t a well developed, strong, and complex character, there’s really no point for her to even exist, other than to maybe be eye candy or a foil for a scenario.
I could go on and on and on forever and ever about sexism in media, mostly in fantasy, scifi, and horror (which are my favorite genres), but that would take way too long and I have to make a taco pizza (that’s a pizza with taco ingredients for toppings, if you were wondering). If you’re interested in this sort of stuff like I am, then check out Feminist Frequency. They offer great videos on a variety of topics concerning women in media. These were mostly just some tips I wanted to offer for young writers, film makers, game designers, comic artists, and other crafters of media about handling women in media. If people like this post, I may consider doing one for queer people, too…
You could point out that Nealla Gordon (the actress who played Mrs. Lichtenstein) is white & was in Precious in a role of authority & with actual lines.
Lesley Arfin, one of the writers of HBO series Girls, on Twitter.
I suppose this is a joke? Is this how she deals with commentary about the lack of diversity in the show? I am baffled, someone throw me a rope!
The other day I came upon a post by Margaret Lyons at Vulture pointing out the frequent use of rape jokes in sitcoms this season. A number of sitcoms, especially Two Broke Girls, Whitney, and Work It included scenes where rape served as a punchline. Lyons explains what particularly bothers her about this is that references to rape are being used simply as a “shorthand for outrageousness,” a way to cue the audience that they’re watching a show that is bold and daring, that will say anything!
Here are some things that have been happening on the internet and elsewhere in the past week or so that we’ve neglected to talk about:
- At Bitch, Kirthana Ramisetti commented on the consequences of Tina Fey’s too-close identification with Liz Lemon, and Caroline Narby explored autism in the horror genre, in a piece that I love. It focuses especially on Trick R Treat, which is one of my favorite horror films and warrants a feministfilm examination of its own
- Something’s happening with Chelsea Handler and Whitney Cummings, and I should probably care about it. I don’t.
- Downtown Abbey? Who’s watching it and wants to write about it for us? Submit!
- GretchenSisson looked at the implications of the fact that The Real Housewives of Atlanta offers some of the only images of affluent black womanhood on television
- Kartina Richardson talked about the post-racial airs of Parenthood
- At Racialicious, Kendra and Jordan broke down The Vampire Diaries
- People are talking about Nicki Minaj’s “Stupid Hoe”
- Women and Hollywood looked at how women are benefiting from Kickstarter
- Ugh, The Iron Lady
- Last night on iCarly, Sam tried to smuggle some Fatcakes over the Canadian border, which was pretty cool I guess. Last Monday, Michelle Obama was on the show, which was also pretty cool I guess (even though it kind of messed with the show’s anarchist continuity). But did you see iBalls, two weeks ago? GAYEST SUBTEXT IN TELEVISION HISTORY
- Let it be known that feministfilm fully endorses Dan Schneider.
- The only relevant news is iCarly news.
Our culture critic Tom Carson on the AMC meth-dealer-in-the-desert epic’s ensemble cast and its mesmerizing fourth season:
With just one season left to go, Breaking Bad has shifted from being all about Bryan Cranston’s triple-Emmy’d (so far) lead performance to the best ensemble show on TV. This year, we were spun around four compromised points of the male compass: brains (the increasingly Machiavellian Walt), ego (Giancarlo Esposito’s drug kingpin Gus), heart (Aaron Paul’s Jesse, Walt’s reluctant sorcerer’s apprentice), and pure testosterone (Dean Norris as Hank, Walt’s DEA-agent brother-in-law—who’s got a supernally wise dark-side twin in Jonathan Banks, Gus’s head enforcer). Which one we get off on most says as much about us as picking our favorite Beatle.
[Photograph by Robert Maxwell]
Okay, first, I should probably throw out that I actually read and enjoy a lot of GQ (because masculinities), and obviously I adore Breaking Bad (only partially because masculinities), and a big chunk of my blog is dedicated to one of these “men of Breaking Bad” (nearly exclusively because ladyboners), so, like, I get it, but…
You don’t need to do a feature on the men of Breaking Bad. You don’t. Breaking Bad is a show about men. It is about men making meth, it is about men blowing stuff up, it is about men firing guns, it is about men kicking the shit out of each other, it is about men being self-destructive, it is about men having ambiguous moralities. Like way too many shows on TV, it is about men, first and foremost.
And I don’t mean to erase the women on the show, especially as their roles become more significant. But so far, if I’m not forgetting anyone, there have been three women who have had any real effect on the plot.* One of them is dead; the other two are meddling wives. Fortunately, Breaking Bad is beginning to complicate the wife role in some really intriguing ways. This doesn’t mean most of the fandom doesn’t reduce Skyler and Marie to dumb bitches who need to die.
What I’m trying to say is, yes, Breaking Bad is brilliant television, and yes, the masculinities on the show are really interesting—but they’re also aggressively violent and highly problematic, and I’m tired of celebrating them. (It boggles my mind to consider how many deaths could have been prevented if Walt weren’t too proud to accept help, or if he weren’t so easily manipulated by the trope that “a man provides for his family.”)
Can somebody do a feature on the women of Breaking Bad? Maybe Bust or Bitch? (I can feel a feministfilm series bubbling to the surface as we speak.) Can somebody ask Krysten Ritter how it felt to be fridged? Or Betsy Brandt if she thinks the show’s depiction of her character’s mental illness is at all gendered? I’ll admit, what I really want to know is whether Anna Gunn is aware of all those AV Club commenters who want Skyler dead.
I’ve complained a lot about Mad Men and how it’s depicted in magazines like GQ; the male characters are often presented as suave ladykillers, despite the fact that the show itself constantly problematizes their masculinities and has been fairly straightforward in its gradual revelation of the men of SCDP as rapists and addicts. Breaking Bad doesn’t have that problem, because Breaking Bad doesn’t see itself as a show about gender. Representations of “the men of Breaking Bad” in other media are more or less the same as what we see on the show itself.
As a feminist TV blogger, I’m becoming increasingly frustrated with the lack of open discourse about Breaking Bad. I’d like to know what proportion of Breaking Bad viewership is male, especially straight cis male—I live in a Tumblr bubble that’s nearly entirely female and/or queer, and the fraction of Breaking Bad fans on my dash reflects that—and I’d also like to get demographics for the writing and production staff. For me it’s really not so much about what’s on the show as how we talk about it. It’s high time we acknowledge that one of the best shows on television is still far from perfect.
*Skyler, Jane, and Marie. You could make a case for Andrea, too, but I’d argue that, at least at this point, the real action revolves around her kid.
American Horror Story - Opening credits.
Such a good article! It’s kind of shocking just how archaic Hollywood’s ideas about gender and hetero relationships still are.
Whether the stars take a salary cut or not, there won’t be many more new adventures in the town of Springfield.
Fox executives told The Wrap on Wednesday that even if the voice actors behind the iconic animated show “The Simpsons” take a massive pay cut, the show is no longer profitable as a first-run series and will end after next season. If the actors don’t agree to a cut, this season, the show’s 23rd, will be its final batch of new episodes.
Producers for the show have already taken a pay cut to keep the show going. Fox released a statement about the show’s tenuous financial situation on Monday.23 seasons in, The Simpsons is as creatively vibrant as ever and beloved by millions around the world. We believe this brilliant series can and should continue, but we cannot produce future seasons under its current financial model. We are hopeful that we can reach an agreement with the voice cast that allows The Simpsons to go on entertaining audiences with original episodes for many years to come.