A post came out in the NewStatesmen today by Sophia McDougall called “I Hate Strong Female Characters.” A lot of you may have already seen it. It’s been shared by lots of people I know, I’ve seen links from several sources show up on my dash, and I RTedit myself earlier today.
I highly recommend you read it for yourself, but the gist of it is that Hollywood has taken the call for “more strong female characters” to mean that we literally want strong female characters. That THAT is the way to combat the stereotypical female characters that have always existed in Hollywood movies (i.e. damsel in distress, sexy eye candy, etc.) and provide appropriate representation for women in films and television (though this is much more a problem you see in movies than TV). Moreover, that the public also often misinterprets the idea of wanting “strong female characters” to mean this, and that male characters (protagonists in particular) are not held to this same intensely literal meaning when categorized as strong male characters. Male protagonists are allowed be a number of different, varying things, and strong in ways that may not always include or highlight physical (or mental or emotional) strength. And the post also brings up perhaps the worst offense of all, that female characters categorized as SFCs are often shown displaying excessive amounts of strength or physical aggression towards men in ways that would cause us as an audience to recoil if the roles were reversed and it was a man acting that way to a woman — the reason being that the audience assumes (or the people behind the film assume the audience assumes) the female character is “weak” until it is unequivocally proven otherwise, something the male characters don’t have to prove.
The article really covers everything, and I agree with it so very much, but this is something I’ve been thinking about incessantly for the past year or two, both in my writing and in watching things, so I’m gonna talk about it because it’s my tumblr and I want to.
I was just thinking about tv shows with groups of main characters, like Lost, and Big Bang theory. Or even casts with two main characters like Life with Derek, or a romantic pair like 18 to life (um can you guess what I just watched?) Even in these cases I feel as if there is a main main character, and I think other people feel the same way. I mean for me, Jack – Lost, Leonard – BBT, Casey – Life with Derek, Tom – 18 to Life. All these choices seem very obvious to me on the surface, but recently I realized that my opinions aren’t necessarily shared. In fact, chances are lots of people feel like Locke or the Island itself is the main character of Lost, and that Sheldon is the main character of BBT, and Derek is the main character in Life with Derek, and Jessie is more interesting then Tom in 18 to Life. When a lot of emphasis and screen time is given to several central characters I think we choose the one we relate the most with as the main character. Or the one we find the cutest. You know. Someone you feel you’re like, you’d like to be like, or you’d like to be with (in either a friendship or romantic sense.) I think the fictitious relationships you build between yourself and the characters, and the empathy you have for them is a big factor in what makes a show interesting. Which is why shows with moderate to large casts, like Lost and BBT and Heroes and Friends and even How I Met Your Mother (Even though I may argue that NPH is the driving factor of success here) are so popular. There are more characters that you may relate to or want to be like or want to be with. That keeps you watching.
P.S. Perhaps reading Malcolm Gladwell again leads me to analyze stuff. I just read the chapter of the Tipping Point on Sesame Street and Blues Clues, or “The Stickiness Factor.”
By saving conversations and correspondence I’m really trying to capture the interactions between other people and myself. Connections and conversation and mood. Looking back sometimes I notice the way I conduct myself changes. I am more careful about some things and less about others as I grow up. I like everything to be saved because I wonder what there is of value there and if it may be of use one day. I want to leave breadcrumbs which show who I am and who I was and how I changed. Also, lately, I think it might be useful for writing characters. I have friends who are characters and who tell good stories and sometimes I tell good stories too.