As a writer, I feel sometimes like I fall into the trap of thinking that my female characters must be able to throw a punch in order to be considered tough. And it’s not wonder since I get a lot of my inspiration from popular culture. Think about it. In the last 20 years, when television, film, or even books have portrayed a woman who is “strong”, she most likely some version of what I call a “dude who has breasts”. But are we doing a disservice to women when we cast them this way?
I’ve known plenty of strong women in my life (have I mention my mom, cause she’s the most kick ass woman I know, like ever). Very few of these women have martial arts training, are members of the military or know some sort of deadly skill like chopping a fly in half with a Katana sword (although that would be freaking cool to know how to do. Just sayin.) Nonetheless, these women have been some of the strongest people I have ever known.
So why don’t we see more of that type of character in movies? And more importantly, why isn’t that character considered to be strong? Let’s examine this for a moment.Read More
Very few films take on the strong woman character as an essay. Off the top of my head I can think of only three: The Long Walk Home, with Whoopi Goldberg (who has played many strong female characters…where has she gone?), Sally Field in Norma Rae, and Julia Roberts in Erin Brockovich.
It’s interesting that in most of these cases, these types of characters are usually based on real women. It’s as if Hollywood can’t conceive of a woman being strong outside of retelling the life of an actual strong woman.
What I like about these women is that they didn’t throw one single punch. They weren’t kick ass ninjas nor were they trained spies. They were just women who were tired of putting up with the status quo and decided to do something about it.
Like for instance, why the hell hasn’t someone made a movie about the life of Harriet Tubman? The woman was a certified hero. She travelled not once, not twice, but at least 15 times into slave territory to rescue slaves and bring them to free territory. This was after she, herself ran away from her slave master. Yep, that is the equivalent of a prisoner of war who escapes captivity and decided, you know what, I’m going back to rescue other prisoners.
That takes nerves of steel ladies and gentlemen. Not to mention that she had a disability from a head injury and was prone to fall into comas from time to time. No biggie for Harriet. And she didn’t just rescue one or two people. We are talking about her taking whole families at a time across slave territory.
She was crazy….. crazy awesome that is! And she did it all without having to once kick some dudes ass in bar fight (although if I had to put money on someone, it would be her).
The whole point of this is that I wonder if there will ever be a fictional woman who is considered strong who doesn’t have some sort of weapon in her hand portrayed on film. I long for the day that women have roles that signify strength that doesn’t come from the physical. Because I believe that you can be a woman, and be strong and not have it come from brute strength or fighting. You can be strong because of character alone.
Perhaps I’m missing the boat, but let me know who some of your favorite female characters are and why you believe they are strong.