In today’s story marketing, we often hear the cry for “Strong Female Roles!”
Now, I’ve never been quite adverse to the idea that there are extraordinary women out there, even physically talented women. However sometimes in hollywood and anime what we get is one or the other, we get a very stern, unfriendly, unrelateable, super geniuses with a touch of personal angst or insecurity. But it’s not like they have much reason to be insecure. They are the chosen ones! Destined to win! Of course, even in such situations the best of them might be insecure, but for me, all this feels forced.
Insecurities are deep seated. They are based on failure, continuous failure, and all the while comparing yourself to someone who isn’t that. Or perceived failure. In these situations we don’t get that. We get someone who has all these gifts, is incredibly admirable, no one is comparably better than they in their own hometown, yet we are supposed to feel pity for these insecurities about their glorious destiny? I salute those who can, but I could never do it. It always felt like a farce. I need something more than “I’m merely human” sometimes, especially if your a kickass, Marine, Navy SEAL, rough, tough, Special Forces, battle babe, who is a genius self taught engineer with the ability to master the Force in like, a day.
If you haven’t guessed, Im not a fan of Rey from the star wars franchise. We just get all her virtues slapped together even though it’s no consequence for the plot line that they exist, or neither for anything that has to do with the audience. One thing that I really wouldn’t mind, is if the creators demonstrated that they understood what it is to be a genius engineer, a moment to decipher how a mind of such a person works. A step back and analysis if you will. I think that was the glory of the BBC Sherlock series, and why I didn’t mind at all the presence or characterization of Irene Adler (even though in the original book she was vastly different, and I didn’t nor do I now care for (I actually despise it) the over sexualization of her episode. I wish they would take that out honestly.) I did, however question the characterization of Mrs Watson. I wouldn’t mind if they made her a thoughtful, yet ordinary woman with a sharp wit that could verbally battle with the best of them, while adding insight into the various cases, and supporting her husband in his endeavors. But they had to make her a super secret agent spy and kill her off. I was dismayed at that part. Again, it felt forced, and while the producers managed to make me grudgingly accept this reality while still enjoying the character, something still felt off.
In Moana, the familiar tick was even more exacerbated. I could not enjoy the show at all, it was just not my style. The interactions of the characters were cute, but there was this feeling of everything being forced, especially since I could predict verbatim some of the ‘inspirational’ or ‘angsty’ lines before they were even said.
As you can tell, I hate things being forced.
(also some of the transition cuts were rather poorly executed for a disney movie, and in this case they seemed to rely on music to make people like the story and I really hate when they do that. It just gives me an annoying headache.)
I think this is the greatest problem as well for the Christian fiction and media community. Often times we get a forced message and an unrealistic story, or at least one I nor the neighborhood atheist cannot relate to diddly squat. While I admire Michael D O Brien, and I used to be a great fan of his words (and still am quite intrigued by them) I do get that feeling in some of his more ‘preachy’ works. I like the message, but the portrayal needs work. It’s partially a reason why I became so taken with Utopia, because none of it really seemed forced, in fact what we get is a very strong, but subversive, message in the compendium of less than 100 or so pages. It’s quite a marvel actually, and it’s the reason why scholars today are at odds as to what the message is. It’s one of the reasons I’m a fan of satire, because you have to be clever when writing in that genre.
I think it would be a great step in the direction for equality if we didn’t have that. Or more importantly, if women weren’t degraded all the time.
So what would be a good strong female lead? Well I think that there are certain roles that have not yet been experimented with, at least at a popular level.
They are wide and various, but the most interesting ones in my opinion are those who are naturally weak on one or multiple important aspects, and strong in another, but let the strengths and weaknesses be realistic, complimentary, and relevant to the plot and meaning of the story. Furthermore, the weakness cannot be resolved or made better by the strength, for that has to be filled by another, be it in a friendship, alliance, family, or spouse.
I say I appreciate this in female characters, but I also like to see this in male characters. Often, in male characters these days, their strength is sacrificed. Either they are seen as total losers, weaklings, or jerks, or they do have strength, but it pales in comparison to the strength of the strong female character who naturally has to be better at everything that the male character does. In this manner, the sexes are not seen as complimentary, but one must be inferior to the other by default, and in this day and age it’s the female that comes out on top instead of the male. Personally Im more irritated by that than when the male always comes out on top (which still irritates me sometimes, especially since in those situations where it causes the female to just fall in love head over heels for the dude. Yeah, no thank you.). It irritates me more because it’s done in the name of equality, when what is only being done is the reverse of what was originally done, which is not good at all.
While I don’t think I ever thought about this before, it is one of the reasons why my story arcs center on two protagonists, one male and one female, who are markedly different in several ways, but still without overshadowing each other.
Im really big on the idea of complementarity, and although not everyone shares my values, I have attempted to imbue them in my work.
My favorite female characters that I have devised are: Fayelin Raye, Victoria Doraine, Serian Felvinorai, and Margo Lannas.
See, Fayelin is not strong, or particularly adept in the institutional academic sphere. She’s weak physically, and gets sick all the time. She’s clumsy, rather eccentric, and has diagnosed dyslexia, making it somewhat troublesome when reading, a trait she got from her father’s side of the family. Her social capabilities manifest with rollercoaster results. At times she is the apple of her class’s eye, and other times she is virtually an outcast. She’s friendly and outgoing, funny, extroverted and always on the lookout for new friends, however she’s very impulsive, which sometimes causes her to say more than she should or do things that are not necessary. Thus, she’s often called ‘annoying’ or ‘rude.’ She realizes that she isn’t very traditionally feminine, but she tries anyway, in her own way.
Furthermore, she goes through periods of borderline insanity, triggered by competitive sentiments, that help her achieve great results, however at the expense of others.
Even so, she’s quite pure, naive, and simple to the point of being of the disposition of a child. Often times when the other protagonist in the arc, Malin, criticizes her, he compares her to a five year old little girl. Alternatively, she generally is quite thoughtful, even though she’s unable to show it academically. But this aspect allows her to often dialogue with Malin at length about human nature and the state of things, at the benefit of the plot and the central themes surrounding it.
Her greatest strength though is, like a child, whenever she falls, she gets back up. Whenever she is hurt, she is quick to forgive. She can’t comprehend manipulation fully, and wears her heart on her sleeve. Whenever everyone else is afraid to take the next step, she will bound forward. In times when everyone else will give up, she will continue to drag herself, and everyone else, forward. When she feels she can trust someone, she does so without hesitation. Constructive criticism, she embraces, and she tries to see the good in everyone, even herself, especially in times when it is difficult. She doesn’t judge people for their habits and idiosyncrasies, but rather enjoys that which is different and foreign, and is willing to help out even the worst of them. This is what allows her to be able to use the golden gun and form a misfit family around her by the end of the storyline, a family which becomes important to the storyline. She has a strong heart, and a valiant spirit that is never really dismayed for long. She is the energy and life of the team, and they could not stand without her.
However, she has a slightly muddled sense of right and wrong, not that this makes her do evil things, but rather she seems to allow for behavior that is not entirely just or at least she might condone it. This is where she differs from Malin who, although well versed in the existence of evil, is firm in his morals and determined to do what is right as much as he can.
One example of them clashing is when Malin finds out she cheated on a test because it seemed like everyone else in the classroom was doing it, and the end prize seemed pretty good, and down with the system amiright? Malin came back with a firm rebuttal that if she did not value the grade enough to study for it, then it should mean nothing at all to her, and that she proves it meant nothing to her if she cheated for it. A delight to easily succeed, yes, but
Of course, her moral murkiness extends to things of a slightly more imperative nature than cheating on tests, but that is one incident. She does not, however, commit moral wrongs out of malice, but rather a misguided mental understanding of the world due to early influences that were not very positive, but as the story progresses, this flaw is somewhat remedied, as she truly wants to be good to others.
Ultimately, Fayelin is an independent, unique, and unorthodox figure that acts all on her own whims or convictions, and is the catalyst for many things that happen in the story arc. Even though she is lacking in many of the things the world values, much like a hurricane she manages to shake the parts of the world she comes into contact with because of her influence on people she meets by the mere force of her personality, as well as her connection to a most important ally.
Victoria Doraine is my second favorite of all my female characters, mainly because she is what every girl might in some way admire or aspire to be. Except the reality of Victoria Doraine is much more complex than a mere idol or ideal version of the business woman.
Cold-hearted, ruthless, practical, and efficient, Victoria is a natural born politician and could never under any circumstances ever let anyone see her as ‘common.’ Since she was five she began to learn 7 other languages and could speak them all fluently at the age of 18. After all, it is important for a future politician to speak the language of the people she is addressing, and that’s what she’s going to be, a politician. Her parents were stunned when at the mere age of 6 she announced to the family she wanted to be an Ambassador for the Central Court.
Her interests isolated her for awhile from the rest of the student body, however she quickly was re-instituted into the social sphere when she learned that the most important quality of a future senator was to manage people. So, she started attempting to do just that. Fortunately for her, she had a very social mother whom she observed on a daily basis to find out the tricks of being liked. She also had a family who was in the artistic side of the propaganda business for the nation. From them she learned human psychology and the art of manipulation. Fortunately for her, she picked up the tricks quite rapidly and soon became the most popular girl in the grade even with her cold heart, average looks, and constant academic achievement. She does have some enemies, but she tends to ignore them, since she strategically build the social ladder in their school to make any moves against her an affront on multiple individuals. Therefore, the fear of retaliation is greater than their hate for her, just as she planned it to be.
While she is fit, her ability in athletics are only average as she generally spends more time sharpening her wit rather than her reflexes. She generally exercises because image matters a lot in politics.
It would be safe to say, from all the lying and the hardships at home (for her mother died when she was ten, and afterward her father became an alcoholic) she ended up developing a cold stone heart, or at least at second glance she did. A few factors, two to be exact, prevented her complete petrification. She has a maternal side, and a quite fierce love for her little sister even though she is never truly able to open up to her as she tries to protect her from everything, even herself.
As someone can easily see, Victoria at times, seems to act without conscience, manipulating whatever system or the life of whatever individual she can. However she has some values and truths that she would rather allow the whole of her hard work crumble than to give up. However, these values are few and vague, and at times she wonders herself why she keeps them. They are that the innocent should not be killed, and the city should not be destroyed