Spare Me The Strong Female Characters

I am thoroughly sick of strong female characters (SFC). I can’t turn on TV, watch a movie or read a book where the female characters aren’t superior examples of their sex in every way shape and form according to a feminist ideal. Knowing exactly what they want, they fight tooth and nail until they get it, never failing, never giving up, and never being hopeless.

In other words, boring.

For example, Game of Thrones (HBO version) has undeniable SFCs…the women who are not vicious and lethal are victims or pawns. Compassion is for the weak. These women use whatever means available, sex, violence, deceit, and manipulation, to get what they want. Those that don’t, end up dead. Those who show compassion, dead. Those who rely on help from others, dead. 

SFCs are shallow automatons. These strong females are to be beautiful and sexy and smart and and ruthless and physically capable of body slamming a 800 lb gorilla all without breaking a nail. Not that they would worry about such trivialities as a broken nail, because worrying about broken nails is what women who are dependent on men do. Strong female characters don’t need help, especially from men, because they can do everything themselves.

Yes, I laughed, too.

The closest characters in Game of Thrones to complicated characters with depth are Brienne of Tarth who, while strong and smart, is compassionate and has to be rescued on occasion by men; and Daenarys who is overly sympathetic and tries to be everything for everyone and it fails miserably. However, she takes advisement from others and realizes that she’s not perfect.

There are SFC that work, River Song in Dr. Who, is the perfect example of a character who is strong. She can kick butt, she’s intelligent and she’s fun. I sometimes wonder if liberal authors remember what fun is, because their characters are not fun. But, I digress.

Whether we realize it or not, fictional characters shape our views and actions. If these superwomen, who can do no wrong or ever fail, are the standard bearers for the sex, what is it doing to readers who can never relate? My guess, the same psychological damage caused by the standards set by photo-shopped anorexic models. Is it any wonder that suicide rates have risen over 200% in pre-teen and teen girls, not to mention the 60% overall rise in the past 15 years, according to the CDC.

This is of course speculation. However, psychological studies have found that one of the leading factors of the rise in suicide is being attributed to unrealistic life expectations. And that romance novels can give women unrealistic views of relationships. So, it’s reasonable to think that the unrealistic examples of SFCs in entertainment is contributing to this dissatisfaction with the ordinary.

How can one be satisfied with the ordinary, when the examples in literature and movies aren’t satisfied with the ordinary? And when you do get a female character with weaknesses, they are just as awful the other direction. Bella Swan in the Twilight series was an emotional wreck who is just shy of being a suicide victim. The two dimensional character of Anastasia Steele in 50 Shades of Gray was little more than a sex doll for Gray. And, while some claim her as an SFC, Katniss Everdeen was little more than a puppet of circumstances and the people around her. She was used and abused, first by President Snow and then by President Alma Coin.

What I want to see more of are female characters who are complicated. Give me characters who accept that they have weaknesses, that they need help from, not only other female characters, but from males as well. Give me characters who are okay with being rescued, failing, and not being the smartest person in the room, but still have a will of their own. Give me characters who are flawed, who make mistakes, who aren’t perfect. 

Give me characters that I can relate to.