Kick Ass Female Characters Do More Than Just Punch…

We_Can_Do_It!

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.

Sarah Connor … All American Badass

Linda Hamilton as Sarah Connor

I love the movie Terminator 2.  Yeah, I said it, love. I could watch that movie everyday for the next five years and still not get tired of it.

It’s just such a cool story, even if there are a few plot holes here and there. Sure, it’s the story of a kid and his lethal cyborg sidekick, but it’s so much more than that. And the person who really takes the movie from great, to superawesome is Sarah Connor.

That’s right, the mother. Sarah is a badass. Now I like to think that my own mom’s chutzpah makes me more inclined to like this character (cause my mom is the s#1$), but truth is, Sarah is one of the best female movie characters ever invented.Read More

What I love about Sarah is that the writer and Hamilton didn’t just stop and make her a one-note character. It would have been easy have her be cold, unlikeable. You know, a man with breasts. (I’m looking at you Electra…)

Sarah is not a machine. She has a vulnerable side to her that shows her humanity (she’s still pining away for John’s father) and despite the fact that she has a bunch of badass skills, she’s not a superhero. She get’s hurt. She makes bad decisions, but she’s motivated by love and of course, saving the world from utter annihilation.  Yet she’s compelling because she struggles with her own inner turmoil even as she fights deadly machines.

The evolution of the character, from the first movie is terrific. In the first movie, she was more passive, being saved instead of doing the saving, although towards the ending, a spark of strength was ignited, as she forces Kyle to keep running by half-carrying him.

By the second movie, Sarah has evolved into the steely-eyed protector that you see throughout the movie and the change is completely believable. Think about it. If you knew your son was going to save the world and robot assassins would be sent back in time to kill him, you might brush up on your Jujitsu skills and machine gun practice too.

But Sarah’s worth as a character is more than just about her ability to kill a lot of stuff really well. She was a daring prototype in the 90’s, Ripley being just about the only other lead female character up to that point that could come close. She represents a shift to make the woman the catalyst for change. It is her, and not John, who makes the plot drive forward.

The first time John is attacked, the Terminator wants to take him off grid immediately for his protection. Against better judgment, John decides that he has to go get his mother. But even before he decided that, Sarah had already made plans to escape.

When Sarah, John and the Terminator go to Mexico to get weapons, she makes the decision to go after Skynet. It’s either because of her, or she herself that drives the plot forward. She is the decider…(I couldn’t resist). She is the catalyst and the reason the movie proceeds forward. Without her, John would have just safely hidden away off the grid waiting for “judgment day”. But protecting his mom is what drives him back into danger. The funny part is that I believe that Sarah would have escaped without his help. (At least that’s what I like to think…)

Sarah has influenced how I write female characters. Like her, many of them are tough chics willing to fight to death to protect the ones that they love. They aren’t always imbued with a set of fighting skills, but they all have a spine of steel. My characters struggle, and often times that struggle involves a life or death choice because in fiction, is there really any more compelling dilemma?

But Sarah Connor is just my pick. I know that there are others so let me know who yours are in the comments.

Time for Something New

Photo by Brandon Christopher Warren
www.flickr.com/photos/brandoncwarren/4334456172

Hello friends,

Welcome to my internet space. I’ve had this domain for over a year, but today I decided to get serious about you, the reader.

For most of this past year, I blogged out of pure duty, because I thought I had to and because that’s what all the internet marketers told me to do. It was pure hell trying to keep up with a blogging schedule, publish interest stuff all while trying to figure out what kind of writer I wanted to become. Do I only write young adult fiction? Am I jumping on the paranormal bandwagon? Should I stick to one genre for marketing sake? Read More

Honestly, for the first three years that I started writing, I had no clue what kind of writer I was. I’m still sort of figuring that out. Sometimes it takes awhile to realize what you stand for and more importantly, what you are trying to say. I would say during this past year, I’ve taken quite a journey, to get to know myself as a writer with some unplanned but eye-opening pit stops along the way. Things have happened to me over the past year that have remarkably changed my trajectory of growth. It’s amazing how clear things become when tragedy strikes your life. You realize that most of the stuff you were worrying about before the big event really didn’t matter that much and your focus for what really matters slides into place.

That’s why I’m starting over with this blog. It’s a place where I talk about subjects that I think are important to my writing and where I share my work.

I think it’s fair to say that nearly every writer wants to be read. I know I want to be although my reasons have changed in the last year. I used to think writing was all about the money. I’ll admit, I wanted to be the next Hugh Howley and make a million bucks. But if this past year has taught me anything it’s been that writing is a way for me to share with you what I think this whole crazy existence means. It’s about the story, not the money, stupid.

The other thing I’ve realized is that I’ve tried to be to perfect with my writing, especially with blogging. Too many misspellings and grammar mistakes can be distracting, but so many of my posts before were just me posturing, trying to generate a “brand” rather than getting real and sharing with you what I truly think.

So here’s what you can expect from me on this site:

1. Conversations about popular culture with a strong emphasis towards women. I tend to pretty much write about female characters and pop culture is a big influence in my writing.

2. My short stories and book excerpts.

3. General musing on life as a writer.

But this is not just a one way conversation. I want to know about you and what you want to talk about. More importantly, I want you to engage, to comment and to contribute to the blog.

And so it begins again. I will try my best to post at about once a week but I’m not going to get crazy about it. If I have nothing interesting to say, then I will say nothing. I think everyone will appreciate thoughtful content, rather than top five lists of whatever (although I do love a good list article). Short stories and book excerpts will be available as I finish them.

Thanks for hanging out.

Nicki