Up Front by Emma Hart

Read Post

Up Front: A Real Character

121 Responses

First ←Older Page 1 2 3 4 5 Newer→ Last

  • Chris Miller,

    My favourite female character on Downton Abbey is Daisy. She's not what a lot of people would call strong. She's naive and sweet. She gets pressured into doing things she doesn't want to do. BUT... she doesn't compromise her ideas of what's right and wrong. Even when giving in and doing what others want, she doesn't doubt her belief that she shouldn't be doing it. She may not have the power to defy peer pressure, but she has the strength to not doubt herself, to refuse to let people gaslight her. To me that is strength, because people in authority are telling her that something is right, she's doing the right thing, and she's just a lowly maid so surely she should be trusting their judgement - but she won't, because she believes in herself.

    I think everyone has a different idea of what a strong female character is, and it's sad that too often they think it means an action hero. I want to see variety and, like you, depth. There's a million ways to be strong for women. Why stick with just one?

    Otautahi, Aotearoa • Since Nov 2011 • 17 posts Report Reply

  • Lucy Stewart,

    I'd actually argue that what's far more important to a work than whether it has "a strong female character" is whether it has a range of female characters - filling a variety of different plot and life roles. I'm not going to be impressed by your dedication to portraying women, no matter how much effort you put into the depth and interest of your one female character, if she's your one female character. Because then she's The Girl. And we need to move beyond Everyone And The Girl. (The upcoming Avengers movie makes me wary in that regard; it's not like there haven't been plenty of female Avengers in comics, but, hey, in the movies: the Black Widow is The Girl.)

    Harry Potter is in some ways a good example of this; you can argue 'till the cows come home about whether one character or another was a "strong female character", but Rowling showed women being mothers, teachers, soldiers, villains, friends, girlfriends, teammates, and more. No-one was The Girl. No-one had to shoulder the burden of being everything a woman in fiction is supposed to be. We argue about whether it's okay for women in fiction to always be Superwoman because there aren't usually enough of them to argue about how they're portrayed as a class, fandom by fandom. And that's the real problem.

    Amherst, MA • Since Nov 2006 • 2087 posts Report Reply

  • Angus Robertson,

    Have you seen the Maggie Thatcher movie?

    Auckland • Since May 2007 • 984 posts Report Reply

  • Emma Hart, in reply to Lucy Stewart,

    No-one had to shoulder the burden of being everything a woman in fiction is supposed to be.

    Yeah, this. And it's the same with LGBT characters, and non-White characters. If you've got more than one, you can show you know they're different. Just like people. Which is one of the things that really annoys me about the inclusion of River Tam in that 5 Worst list. Elizabeth Swann is The Girl. Padme is The Girl. River? Why is River in that list, and not Kaylee or Zoe or Inara?

    Christchurch • Since Nov 2006 • 4286 posts Report Reply

  • Russell Brown, in reply to Emma Hart,

    Yeah, this. And it’s the same with LGBT characters, and non-White characters. If you’ve got more than one, you can show you know they’re different. Just like people.

    This also applies to characters on the autism spectrum, who tend to be presented on screen as a grab-bag of symptoms. It’s welcome that they appear in fiction now, but it’d also be nice if they were allowed to be more different.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 17969 posts Report Reply

  • Lucy Stewart, in reply to Emma Hart,

    Which is one of the things that really annoys me about the inclusion of River Tam in that 5 Worst list. Elizabeth Swann is The Girl. Padme is The Girl. River? Why is River in that list, and not Kaylee or Zoe or Inara?

    Dude, WTF. I mean, are there problems with Joss Whedon’s portrayals of women? Fuck yes. But they emerge as patterns over multiple female characters, which at least means he has enough female characters to form patterns. River can be analysed problematically as part of Whedon’s Kickass Skinny Pretty White Teenage Girls Thing, but by herself – and as part of a show where half the main cast were women – she’s actually pretty cool.

    This also applies to characters on the autism spectrum, who tend to be presented on screen as a grab-bag of symptoms. It’s welcome that they appear in fiction now, but it’d also be nice if they were allowed to be more different.

    I'd argue there's basically two models for autistic characters in current media: the Mute Superpowered Kid, and the Quirky Adult One. One wonders how they think you get from one to the other.

    Amherst, MA • Since Nov 2006 • 2087 posts Report Reply

  • Emma Hart, in reply to Russell Brown,

    This also applies to characters on the autism spectrum, who tend to be presented on screen as a grab-bag of symptoms. It’s welcome that they appear in fiction now, but it’d also be nice if they were allowed to be more different.

    Yes. I'd also like it if a poly/kinky character got more than the odd episode in a US crime drama. We're so bloody demanding.

    Christchurch • Since Nov 2006 • 4286 posts Report Reply

  • Bart Janssen,

    Gotta say very surprised to see River Tam on that list. She always struck me a the loony psycho character. That she happened to also be a girl always felt incidental to me, she is a character first. That she is the subject of multiple rescues makes perfect sense because she is the insane one and the subject of a system wide hunt by the authorities.

    Did I mention that Serenity is one of my favourite movies and I might be a little bit one-eyed :).

    This is not a subject I feel terribly competent to comment on but my favourite female characters in fiction, or anywhere for that matter, are favourite characters first. To me it is about whether the character rings true and too often female characters are so poorly realised that they don't ring true. To be honest most times that happens the male characters are just as bad.

    That's why slamming Padme for being a terrible female character is so pointless, none of Lucas' characters have any depth so what make Padma any shallower.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 3115 posts Report Reply

  • Bart Janssen, in reply to Russell Brown,

    It’s welcome that they appear in fiction now, but it’d also be nice if they were allowed to be more different.

    Have you read "The speed of dark" Russell? I enjoyed the book but was never quite sure if it was "right".

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 3115 posts Report Reply

  • Michael J. Parry,

    I just want them to be believable and real. A character is "strong" if the writer makes me care what happens to them. Which is not strength at all, but depth.

    That's what I aspire to do in my writing. I'll have to book mark this as a reminder when I try and write female characters in my stories. The main female character in my first novel isn't too bad I think, but then she is a female Troll, so um yeah...

    Dannevirke/Wellington • Since Feb 2012 • 5 posts Report Reply

  • nzlemming, in reply to Emma Hart,

    Yes. I'd also like it if a poly/kinky character got more than the odd episode in a US crime drama. We're so bloody demanding.

    Pauley Perrette playing Abby Sciuto in NCIS?

    Waikanae • Since Nov 2006 • 1701 posts Report Reply

  • nzlemming, in reply to Bart Janssen,

    That’s why slamming Padme for being a terrible female character is so pointless, none of Lucas’ characters have any depth so what make Padma any shallower.

    So much This!

    Waikanae • Since Nov 2006 • 1701 posts Report Reply

  • Heather Gaye,

    I’d actually argue that what’s far more important to a work than whether it has “a strong female character” is whether it has a range of female characters – filling a variety of different plot and life roles.

    I’m pretty happy about a lot of the american TV series I’ve been watching. Fringe, American Horror Story & V all have ensemble casts in which different depictions of men & women take equal standing with regards to character – they’re not all necessarily all strong all the time, or even likeable, but they’re interesting and complicated, with good and bad traits, and that applies as much to both sexes. Even Homeland – rather than foisting a mental illness onto a character gratuitously to pep up the plot, it’s managed to convey that her major weakness is inextricably linked with her extraordinary skill.

    I think railing against Starbuck is a bit hopeless for this reason – although the BSG cast is weighted towards men, the women are all pretty diverse and well-developed.

    There are a stack of TV shows I haven’t seen that I know have similar ensemble casts – I expect the trend would be the same (except, perhaps, for Dexter. Even then, *every* character in that show seems to be pretty one-dimensional)? I’m enjoying a lot of TV shows now for their more sophisticated explorations of people and relationships (even the sci-fi shows), so it would make sense that these kind of shows are more open to depicting women as well-rounded human beings.

    Under the western motorwa… • Since Nov 2006 • 522 posts Report Reply

  • Craig Ranapia,

    Starbuck, in BSG, the gods love her, is a good example. Wo-man to the soul. Is she a strong female character? Not really. The subtext here is, to be strong you have to be a man.

    If you want to mount the “chicks with dicks” argument, Battlestar Galactica is epically shitty ground to make your argument on – unless you really think it’s “feminist” to argue that women in positions of political and military authority (like Laura Roslin & Helen Cain) only get there by being she-male tools of patriarchy.

    One of the more pointed subtexts in the original mini-series is that when Roslin show up at the head of a convoy of civilian ships, nobody is at all surprised by (or hostile to) the idea of a female President. That six hours before she was the Education Secretary and 47th in the line of succession? Another matter. (Looks like public education can't get no respect anywhere.)

    Oh, and if you watch the first episode of the series proper (__33__) you might be surpised who issues the order to destroy a hijacked ship making a suicide run on the Galactica with over a thousand civilians aboard. Hint: It’s not the solider-dude. One really interesting dynamic in the show was how often Roslin (the politician-schoolteacher) is more pragmatic and hard-nosed than the career solider Adama.

    Have you seen the Maggie Thatcher movie?

    Yes – and it’s fucking awful. How the hell could the grotesquely over-rated Abi Morgan write a script about the first female Prime Minister of the United Kingdom and not take the actual politics at all seriously? Plenty of time spent on a gaga, semi-permanently pissed psychotic old broad though – that’s that old bitch put in her place!

    North Shore, Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 11617 posts Report Reply

  • Emma Hart, in reply to nzlemming,

    Pauley Perrette playing Abby Sciuto in NCIS?

    I don't know the show well enough to make a call on whether they're doing "kinky = goth".

    That’s why slamming Padme for being a terrible female character is so pointless, none of Lucas’ characters have any depth so what make Padma any shallower.

    I was kind of hoping someone would point that out. Yes, she's a terrible character. That's because she's in the Star Wars prequels. Duh.

    Christchurch • Since Nov 2006 • 4286 posts Report Reply

  • Craig Ranapia, in reply to Emma Hart,

    I don’t know the show well enough to make a call on whether they’re doing “kinky = goth”.

    NCIS doesn't really do "kinky" full stop - Abby's look may be pretty Loli-Goth but she's also a rather sweet, insanely smart, fiercely loyal to her team young woman with a hint of a "will they/won't they" vibe going on with another member of the core cast.

    Still super plus point for having a young woman who is a total science geek, equally totally dedicated to her job, and still socially functional. That's pretty kinky for US network television. :)

    North Shore, Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 11617 posts Report Reply

  • Michael J. Parry,

    NCIS doesn't really do "kinky" full stop - Abby's look may be pretty Loli-Goth but she's also a rather sweet, insanely smart, fiercely loyal to her team young woman with a hint of a "will they/won't they" vibe going on with another member of the core cast.

    They sort of hint at it but not much (she sleeps in a coffin)..

    Still super plus point for having a young woman who is a total science geek, equally totally dedicated to her job, and still socially functional.

    Yeah I like that bit of her character too.

    Dannevirke/Wellington • Since Feb 2012 • 5 posts Report Reply

  • Michael J. Parry,

    I was kind of hoping someone would point that out. Yes, she's a terrible character. That's because she's in the Star Wars prequels. Duh.

    Just replace prequels with nothing. Otherwise one might think you were saying there were non-terrible charcters in Star Wars.

    Dannevirke/Wellington • Since Feb 2012 • 5 posts Report Reply

  • Craig Ranapia, in reply to Michael J. Parry,

    Yeah I like that bit of her character too.

    Knowing shit is hot. Spread the word. :)

    North Shore, Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 11617 posts Report Reply

  • Lucy Stewart, in reply to Heather Gaye,

    Even Homeland – rather than foisting a mental illness onto a character gratuitously to pep up the plot, it’s managed to convey that her major weakness is inextricably linked with her extraordinary skill.

    Although that can run into a kind of dodgy place where having a mental illness is presented as only OK because it gives you Special Powers, as opposed to being part of a range of human existence. (And again - how many times do you see multiple characters with mental illnesses/conditions on a show?) I'm assuming Homeland doesn't go there, but.

    Amherst, MA • Since Nov 2006 • 2087 posts Report Reply

  • Craig Ranapia, in reply to Heather Gaye,

    I might want to revisit this when American Horror Story starts, but it’s embarrasing watch Connie Britten. ‘Mrs Coach’ on Friday Night Lights was that rarity: A middle-class, middle-aged married woman in “flyover” country presented with respect and complexity. AHS? Yet again, I’m left wondering why Ryan Murphy seems obsessed with making pretty much every adult women in his shows mentally unstable shrews who must be punished horribly for showing any kind of sexuality.

    (And don’t even get me started on the obscene treatment of Tara in True Blood – didn’t anyone on that show find it even slightly problematic when the only woman of colour in the core cast basically spends two seasons being raped, tortured and monologing about how she really really deserved it before having another self-loathing spite-fuck with Sam? Then she runs off to become a lesbian cage-fighter, which a whole other hairball of WTF.)

    North Shore, Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 11617 posts Report Reply

  • Gee, in reply to Craig Ranapia,

    Add to that Penelope Garcia from Criminal Minds. She gets to be talented, intelligent, quirky (although I hate to define her that way...) and she can still be sexy, flirty, and in a completely solid relationship at the same time. As in, she can still be herself even if she has a partner... In fact, she's almost the most rounded character in the whole series.

    I had thought Abby in NCIS was a bit broader in terms of what we didn't see her do, but was implied. (At least, in the first few seasons when I watched it.) Maybe I'm mis-remembering it?

    And as far as women-rich ensemble casts go, Bones is pretty good for that...

    Canada, eh • Since May 2011 • 75 posts Report Reply

  • Lilith __, in reply to Lucy Stewart,

    River can be analysed problematically as one of Whedon's Kickass Skinny Pretty White Teenage Girls Thing

    Surely River is at least bi-racial.

    Dunedin • Since Jul 2010 • 3300 posts Report Reply

  • Heather Gaye,

    Although that can run into a kind of dodgy place where having a mental illness is presented as only OK because it gives you Special Powers, as opposed to being part of a range of human existence.

    That’s a fair point, but no, Homeland doesn’t go there. I could rephrase by saying that the mental illness is as much a part of her as the skills that make her good at her job – no judgement or novelty, just.. it is what it is.

    I might want to revisit this when American Horror Story starts, but it’s embarrasing watch Connie Britten.

    Craig: I hear you, to an extent – there’s a heavy dose of earth-mother in her character that I find incredibly cloying, but the whole point of the show is that everyone’s fucked up, so I didn’t have any problem with the depictions of men vs women.

    & I never got the impression that anyone was punished for being sexual, per se (well, some of the men maybe). In fact, I was quite impressed that they had a scene involving a vibrator that made it seem like the most normal thing in the world for a woman to have handy.

    Unless you’re zooming right out to most general – in the show the themes of sex and violence go hand in hand, & to remedy that you’d basically need to write a whole different show. I’d be quite happy about a show with the same premise and less… bad sex (?), but I can’t see any conservative moral tirade in the show. I can understand that the sexual content – and in particular the use of sex as a weapon – wouldn’t be to everyone’s taste.

    What I really liked about AHS was that my opinion of the characters changed over the course of the series (and sometimes changed back). Some characters I remained quite conflicted about. I think it’s the sign of a good show that I can have a debate with friends where we all vehemently disagree about which characters we like & which we hate.

    Under the western motorwa… • Since Nov 2006 • 522 posts Report Reply

  • Stephen Judd,

    This thread is incomplete without Kate Beaton.

    Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 2906 posts Report Reply

First ←Older Page 1 2 3 4 5 Newer→ Last

Post your response…

Please sign in using your Public Address credentials…

Login

You may also create an account or retrieve your password.