People are tough to please. When it comes to creating female characters it is even tougher to please people. Thankfully, there is the great old word of wisdom that people need to keep in mind that you can’t please everyone. Unfortunately, when crafting characters you do need to be aware of how people perceive them. For one, not everyone will see a character in the way that you do. Creating strong female characters is even more difficult because one runs the risk of creating what some call men with boobs or making a character entirely unrealistic. It’s a tough line to walk.
Men with Boobs SyndromeOne of the biggest complaints that female characters get is that they are designed as essentially men with boobs. Generally when this description is used it tends to signal that the characters are not behaving as one would expect of a woman. Unfortunately, that doesn’t entirely work for me mainly because it implies that any female that behaves that way is more male than female. Thus that doesn’t work for me. If a female character exhibits typically male traits that doesn’t make them any less female or detract from their character.
People are so obsessive with creating these balanced female characters that they’ve created tests to see if the characters will pass. Again this makes me uncomfortable as the entire test revolves around whether female characters discuss men. While the tests tests are there more so to identify when sexism potentially arises in media it is short sighted. It isn’t capable of understanding complexities of various works. If two named female characters talk about a male it will fail the Bechdel test. What if that male was a character’s boss who was posing an issue and that’s why they were discussing. This test would cause them to fail. Personally, I don’t think there is anything wrong with discussing men and while it would be an issue if that was the only thing a character did, that generally is not the case (except Rom Coms, in which that is the plot).
What I want to see in a strong female characterA strong female character can at times be difficult to display. I look for characters who forge their own paths. Most importantly, I look for female characters who push through the hard stuff when life wants to take a shit on them. A character that can get back on their feet and fight back for themselves or the people that they care about are strong characters in my book. I’ll admit that I personally look for a character that has to combat something external. That is simply because I appreciate things when they are more visceral and less internal struggles. However, a character that is fighting an extreme internal issue and kicks that issue back to where it came from is still a strong character in my book. Because of this, a strong female character isn’t always physically strong and may not always win a fight initially. However, these strong characters are troopers who won’t accept defeat and will fight back with all they can until they win.
Some great examples of Strong Female Characters
One of my all time favorite female characters comes in the form of most of the females in Buffy The Vampire Slayer. Whether it was Buffy, Cordelia, or Willow, all three women proved that they weren’t people to be trifled with. They didn’t always come out on top, but they fought for what they thought was right. And guess what there was plenty about love interests involved with these characters and even their motivations to do certain things. And I don’t think there is anything wrong with that.
Recently, I’ve been indulging myself in the world of Fairy Tail and the vast majority of the female characters are again examples of strong females. Lucy, Erza, Mirajane, Cana, Juvia. All are women who can hold their own and will defend what they hold dear. Sure, Juvia may be obsessed with Grey, but she will still stand strong beside her guildmates first. Each of the characters prove themselves time and time again, not just as strong women, but strong wizards that can fight with the boys and better.
Who are your favorite strong female characters? What makes a good female character to you?