Strength Equals ?

Close-up of a heavy duty chain, photo in grey-blue

Portland-Seattle April 2008 - Chain Link by michael.cortina / CC BY 2.0

Strong female leads. Netflix offered that up as a category for my streaming pleasure. I wondered if it was a personalization feature or a set category: on the one hand you have the rom-com, on the other the SFL. Turns out it’s one sort-of personalized Netflix sub-category among many.

I thought it was odd as a category, but it is an accurate description of my viewing habits. When this sub-category popped up for me, I had just finished adding several seasons of Farscape to my queue…and I love Aeryn, the gun-toting, roundhouse-kicking female lead.

The SFL-factor is why I loved, and was constantly frustrated with, Dana Scully. I loved that she was a brainy scientist and a gutsy FBI agent. She just belonged there; no one questioned it. But, she couldn’t fire a gun to save her life…it was like she was paralyzed under pressure and so she’d need saving in the end. I mean, even Clarice Starling learned from her earlier gun-wielding (or, rather, room sweeping) mistakes to take out the bad guy.

But when I started thinking about all these strong female leads I realized that a) I think mainly in terms of TV and movies and b) the immediate image that springs to my mind is more of a kick-ass female lead than one who is necessarily strong. And then there’s c) woman moving into a man’s world/role equals strength…that’s my gender studies classes shining through.

All of this makes me wonder if Julia is a strong female lead. She doesn’t carry a gun and doesn’t even know what a roundhouse kick is. Of course, her plot line is more family secrets and less mortal danger.

Julia is determined and searches for answers, but I wouldn’t put her in the same category as the women above. But she’s not exactly a wimp either. So, what, my character is middling?

I know that my problem is in how I see the label “strong.” The inner strength to push forward in the face of adversity is admirable and creates stirring stories, but those also tend to have fewer cool explosions. Maybe I just want to write a beat-’em-up-blow-’em-up character and am disappointed that they turn introspective instead.

In her call for favorite female protagonists, Cassandra Jade actually just asks for interesting female leads, while Lunaleo asks about evil villainesses.

What do you think about strong female leads? Or do you?

5 thoughts on “Strength Equals ?

  1. I love strong female characters but I don’t think they need to be the all out action girl to be strong. I just don’t want all the females to sit back and wait to be rescued. I want some of them to think for themselves and stand on their own feet and not crumble emotionally everytime someone glares at them.

  2. bethfinke

    I like some of the female characters to think for themselves and stand on their own two feet, but I like some of the *male* characters to be like that, too!

    • Cam

      Good point, Beth. Gender doesn’t make the character, and good characters are good characters, period.

      As far as wanting male characters to stand on their own two feet, I’ve got a whole other diatribe about husbands in commercials…

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