PDA

View Full Version : Positive Female Characters In Film



BigWords
06-18-2012, 02:05 AM
Spilling out of this thread (http://absolutewrite.com/forums/showthread.php?t=247257) (to keep things more or less on track in that conversation, and to complement the list here (http://absolutewrite.com/forums/showthread.php?t=247513)).

There are numerous characters which have grabbed my attention over the years, though rarely main characters - in Strange Days I was always impressed with Angela Bassett's character "Mace" Mason. One of the main characters who I have a lot of love for is Katharine Hepburn in The African Queen, able to hold her own (and then some) against Bogey.

mirandashell
06-18-2012, 02:07 AM
Could you define a positive female character? Just so we're all on the same page.

BigWords
06-18-2012, 02:10 AM
The linked discussions go some way to explaining the choice of wording in the title, but I would characterize this as being non-exploitative roles where the character (for whatever reason) is memorable - I'm sure the thinking behind the ongoing discussion is going to be covered again anyways. :)

mirandashell
06-18-2012, 02:29 AM
So it would be a good idea for me to read the original thread?

LOL!

Back in a bit.....

Shadow Dragon
06-18-2012, 03:03 AM
I would say Ripley from Alien is of course a great one. Alice from the live action Alice in Wonderland. She was strong willed and intelligent.

BunnyMaz
06-18-2012, 05:04 AM
I'll second Ripley, definitely.

Alessandra Kelley
06-18-2012, 05:11 AM
Claire Anderson, played by the awesome Beverly Garland, in It Conquered the World.

Camilla Delvalle
06-18-2012, 08:59 PM
Buffy Summers?

Aggy B.
06-18-2012, 11:37 PM
Despite being rather unimpressed with the movie Pathfinder, I liked Starfire (played by Moon Bloodgood) quite a bit.

regdog
06-18-2012, 11:53 PM
Sarah Connor-Terminator
Mulan
Hermione Granger

Mr Flibble
06-18-2012, 11:55 PM
Any character Katherine Hepburn ever played? Now there was a lady.

Ripley goes without saying, imo.

I quite liked Sarah Connor in T2 - she knew what was coming and didn't shirk, just did what she had to. Ultimate heroine of the revolution?

I think there's a lot of films that show women being strong in a quieter way - Steel Magnolias anyone?

Bookewyrme
06-19-2012, 12:13 AM
I would certainly second Mulan and Hermione. I've always identified pretty strongly with Ms. Grainger.

I'd add Yvaine (the fallen star) from Stardust. Any movie where the heroine rescues the hero through her unique personal abilities is a winner, in my eyes.
Also, Chihiro from Spirited Away, Sophie from Howl's Moving Castle, and Nausicaa from Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind (though I prefer the manga to the movie). Miyazaki has a talent for female characters. :)

I also enjoyed Scarlett Johannsen's character Black Widow in the recent Avengers, but I'm not so sure about that one. I mostly enjoyed the way the character subverted and undermined certain female super-hero stereotypes.

I know there are others, but I can't think of them off the top of my head.

Ken
06-19-2012, 12:13 AM
... Wonder Woman!

CrastersBabies
06-19-2012, 02:39 AM
I tried responding to this yesterday, but I had to mull things over. As a matter of fact, I'm still mulling.

When I think "positive," I don't necessarily think strong, kick-ass, tough. Ripley? Absolutely. I loved what she did for female movie roles.

But, I also think of female characters who were portrayed in a positive (non-stereotypical) way. By that definition alone, you can cross off about 99% of the female characters from romantic comedies.

A few characters that pop into my head:

Juno
Cher in Silkwood (or Mask)
ChloŽ Sevigny in Boys Don't Cry
Frances McDormand in Almost Famous

There are more, but I'll have to think. I do take this question as more than a "take names and kick butt later, look at my muscles," type of deal. Though, I do love me some Linda Hamilton, Trinity from the Matrix, and pretty much all characters Summer Glau plays. :)

barnhijl
06-19-2012, 03:00 AM
Why can't I think of any??

anyway I liked black widow from the avengers and was surprised that I didn't notice any T&A shots, especially considering the way all of the posters for the movie looked. She seemed pretty bad ass, but why didn't she get her own movie?

Ok I thought of one... Susan from Monsters vs Aliens. I actually really liked that movie.

lorna_w
06-19-2012, 04:00 AM
Sarah Connor-Terminator


To me, the cool thing about this character is you see her becoming strong. The change is played out. She begins the movie a disco-attending, stare-in-the-mirror ditzy party girl like her roommate. And then circumstances force her to become something else. It happens in stages, but when Reese is hurt at the factory, it finalizes, bam, and her voice changes. She's a drill sergeant screaming at him. And she never regresses. She's the soldier forever after; there's steel in her. I always saw it as a profoundly feminist film for this reason.

BunnyMaz
06-19-2012, 05:28 AM
I agree it's difficult to think of many. Part of it might be the terms.

A "strong" female character... well that's easier, because I define strong as well-written, consistently written and well characterised. A character can be strong on terms of being well developed and still be a bad example of a positive character.

A "perfect" character... Ripley is really the only one I could think of off hand. The problem is some of the issues with individual characters are issues because of the overwhelming culture, or because they portray stuff that gets overused.

For example. Xena is pretty damn awesome. Unashamed of her sexuality, strong, confident, capable and witty, but also capable of expressing her emotions, being nurturing and being feminine when the mood took her. In a world full of great, non-objectified characters, she'd be high on my list. But the outfit she wore was very much designed to titillate male viewers. Which is only really a problem because it happens all the time, rather than being a problem with the character herself.

Oh I did think of more excellent ones in general, though! Katara and Toph, and Zuki, from Avatar (the TV series, never saw the film).

BigWords
06-19-2012, 02:31 PM
Xena is pretty damn awesome. Unashamed of her sexuality, strong, confident, capable and witty, but also capable of expressing her emotions, being nurturing and being feminine when the mood took her. In a world full of great, non-objectified characters, she'd be high on my list. But the outfit she wore was very much designed to titillate male viewers. Which is only really a problem because it happens all the time, rather than being a problem with the character herself.

A question off the back of that comment, as it does seem to raise other issues for me (and apologies if this is a derail, but I really am interested in how this plays out) - if the (lack of) costume in Xena is an issue, how about the giant fake breasts in Erin Brockovich? Half of the adverts for that film made great play of her breasts, but given all that she accomplished in the film (and, incidentally, in real life) does that diminish - in any way - the good aspects? I would say that it is an aspect of the person, and the character, and no matter what an individual wears they shouldn't be criticized for their clothing choices.

Alessandra Kelley
06-19-2012, 03:00 PM
I agree it's difficult to think of many. Part of it might be the terms.

A "strong" female character... well that's easier, because I define strong as well-written, consistently written and well characterised. A character can be strong on terms of being well developed and still be a bad example of a positive character.

A "perfect" character... Ripley is really the only one I could think of off hand. The problem is some of the issues with individual characters are issues because of the overwhelming culture, or because they portray stuff that gets overused.

For example. Xena is pretty damn awesome. Unashamed of her sexuality, strong, confident, capable and witty, but also capable of expressing her emotions, being nurturing and being feminine when the mood took her. In a world full of great, non-objectified characters, she'd be high on my list. But the outfit she wore was very much designed to titillate male viewers. Which is only really a problem because it happens all the time, rather than being a problem with the character herself.

This is an interesting point and very much something I'm thrashing through. I think I have less of a problem with Xena's outfit because it's not solely designed to be visually appealing to men. I don't object to things being a certain kind of beautiful as long as they have other meanings and uses, which is how I see Xena's costume. I'll grant you it's goofy, but it's very like the semi-practical armor I was designing for my D&D characters as a kid, with no thought to appealing to male eyes.

I do have a problem with the constant cultural barrage of empty beauty, contorted poses and outfits with no purpose whatsoever except to titillate males. It can't be good for people, men included.

It's a little hard to explain, because this is an aspect of my art I've been exploring for some years. I am very interested in the symbolism and deeper meaning of clothes. They are a vital part of human communication; they are almost the way we define the people we see. Yet human finery is generally disregarded as something trivial and undeserving of serious study.

The way clothes are worn and presented can communicate as much as any other human art. I see no reason to not use the artistic tools available in clothing, including beauty and movement and yes, appeal to the male -- and female -- gaze. Humans react very strongly to the visually appealing, and in clothing as with any art, it is a waste to use it for empty prettiness and titillation.

BunnyMaz
06-19-2012, 03:11 PM
A question off the back of that comment, as it does seem to raise other issues for me (and apologies if this is a derail, but I really am interested in how this plays out) - if the (lack of) costume in Xena is an issue, how about the giant fake breasts in Erin Brockovich? Half of the adverts for that film made great play of her breasts, but given all that she accomplished in the film (and, incidentally, in real life) does that diminish - in any way - the good aspects? I would say that it is an aspect of the person, and the character, and no matter what an individual wears they shouldn't be criticized for their clothing choices.

That's why I emphasised that it isn't a problem with the character itself so much as a problem with the trend. As an individual character I love Xena, and I love her outfit and her open, unashamed sexuality. She was a fantastic character for me growing up.

The issue isn't any individual character having a certain body type, or wearing certain clothes, or having a certain attitude to sex. The problem is that it gets used over and over and over and over again to the point that it's expected the female lead and most of the female supporting cast of a given film or TV series will be portrayed to serve the sexual needs of a presumed male-straight audience.

Like the Bechdel test, which isn't actually any sort of indicator of whether a film is feminist in it's treatment of women, or fair, or even if it's a basically good film, but which does show trends.

Especially as, with the sex thing, it's becoming more common to portray the female protagonists in work as a Strong (http://harkavagrant.com/index.php?id=311) Female (http://www.harkavagrant.com/index.php?id=336) Character.

I just meant that this makes it hard for me to pick individual characters I can say are "positive", because I either have to acknowledge problematic trends portrayed by those characters or say something like "Samus, except in the most recent game" or "Spoiler, at least until her torture-porn death scene" or "Big Barda, until she got fridged off-scene". (Not film characters, but the point stands).

Still, that makes it interesting, eh?

Maybe we could define individually what we think of when we think of a positive female character? Or female characters that had a positive impact on us? Because then Xena definitely counts for me.

*edit* ooh, good points there Alessandra. I like the idea of clothing-as-a-tool. Then it gets to the point of; does the outfit/outfits used for this character work for the character? Do these clothes, worn this way, suit the personality we're told she has? Do they convey useful information? Is the overall meaning behind the outfit enhanced or damaged by the way it's worn? The Dresden Codak comic artist's tumblr explores that once in a while. I'll try and find the links.

ETA: Here! (http://dresdencodak.tumblr.com/post/2413085571/costumes-the-wearable-dialog)

Ken
06-19-2012, 03:25 PM
... Mary Tyler Moore too.

barnhijl
06-19-2012, 04:34 PM
Everything in Xena was done to be goofy or... i dunno indulgent? the show didn't really take itself too seriously. think of all the "are they lesbians?" episodes and so on.

Don't get me wrong, I LOVED xena growing up. and when I was little she was proof that girls could kick butt. but I really don't think her outfit is problematic b/c of the whole overall feel of the show. If the show had been super serious without all of the.. fan service? then maybe I would see her outfit as standing out. compared to some of the other costumes women wore Xena's outfit might even be considered less sexual (Gabrielle, Callisto, Aphrodite...)

Mr Flibble
06-19-2012, 04:40 PM
compared to some of the other costumes women wore Xena's outfit might even be considered less sexual (Gabrielle, Callisto, Aphrodite...)

A lot of the guys wore rather scrummy outfits too. Not that I was titillated IN ANY WAY by Karl Urban with almost no clothes on. No. Honest. *cough*

Yeah, Xena's outfits seemed to me to fit the whole tone of it, were fairly practical etc. So I didn't really have a problem with them.

BunnyMaz
06-19-2012, 06:11 PM
Good points, all. I think on reflection then, I'll count Xena as a positive one, too. The outfit makes sense in context, and is consistent with both the character and the world she inhabits.

Now. My other half posed one. What about Tank Girl, as portrayed in the film? And the differences between her in the comics and the film?

Mr Flibble
06-19-2012, 06:20 PM
Tank Girl....of course she's positive!


:D


Okay, more seriously. In the film? Yeah, I think she is. (I liked the film btw). She's smart, can take care of herself, doesn't answer to men (or anyone tbh), she has a tender side and isn't just there to drool over (although they did play with that when all the rippers going all googly cos like OMG THERE'S A WOMAN!) She kicks arse, but is vulnerable at times. She wears what she wears because she wants to IMO. It's pretty practical in a very hot climate to not wear all that much either. I'd wear what she does without a second thought* - it's not even overly girly - desert boots etc.

I'm less conversant with the comics (I've read some, but not huge amounts) but I'd say yes.


*Okay, maybe not the missile bra

BunnyMaz
06-19-2012, 06:31 PM
Tank Girl....of course she's positive!


:D


Okay, more seriously. In the film? Yeah, I think she is. (I liked the film btw). She's smart, can take care of herself, doesn't answer to men (or anyone tbh), she has a tender side and isn't just there to drool over (although they did play with that when all the rippers going all googly cos like OMG THERE'S A WOMAN!) She kicks arse, but is vulnerable at times. She wears what she wears because she wants to IMO. It's pretty practical in a very hot climate to not wear all that much either. I'd wear what she does without a second thought* - it's not even overly girly - desert boots etc.

I'm less conversant with the comics (I've read some, but not huge amounts) but I'd say yes.


*Okay, maybe not the missile bra

Ha! She is a fun character, but I have to disagree with the bolded part. Cultures that developed in hot, desert environments tend to go for thorough covering, flowing clothes for a reason.

My other half (more familiar with the comics than me) said that while the comics are more crude, and contain more superfluous nudity etc than the film, somehow the comics felt less gratuitous. Maybe because of the difference between comic panels and the way the camera focused on her. Tank Girl never really suffered from this (http://www.blogcdn.com/www.comicsalliance.com/media/2011/10/n33611780323386306242.jpg) sort of portrayal even when she was barely covered.

zahra
06-19-2012, 06:37 PM
Frances McDormand's Sheriff character in Fargo.

Mr Flibble
06-19-2012, 06:48 PM
Ha! She is a fun character, but I have to disagree with the bolded part. Cultures that developed in hot, desert environments tend to go for thorough covering, flowing clothes for a reason.

But I thought shorts was a standard in Aus! :D (which is where it's set). Not a surprise then if a future version includes shorts? Cultures in hot climates where it's considered rude to show bits...then yes. Cultures that don't have that restriction, not so much?

ETA: For instance, when I've travelled to Morrocco, plenty of local women were wearing shorts or light trousers/capri pants or sarong type dresses. I can't see a sarong being very practical for driving a tank! Also, flowing, when performing mechanical thingies? Your fabric would end up caughtin a piston or something. Fully covered might be more of an issue in tropical/jungle environs where you don't want a leech up your whatsit, or thorns in your thingy.

BigWords
06-19-2012, 06:49 PM
From the original run of the Tank Girl comic... I'm not so sure. There was a scene where she came back from the dead (it makes sense in context) and she is naked, sitting on the mortuary table looking directly at the reader asking (and I don't have the issue to hand, so this is from memory) "Do you like what you see?"

There's heavy lampshading of the nudity, and no effort is made to be coy about the fact. I like to think that it is a commentary of the nonsense in the superhero comics where steam covers any trace of nudity even though the stories are designed to show as much flesh as possible without getting the titles in trouble from parent groups. Also, the references to pop culture, high art and literature sprinkled through the stories gives more weight to the positive interpretations.

Alessandra Kelley
06-20-2012, 05:04 AM
*edit* ooh, good points there Alessandra. I like the idea of clothing-as-a-tool. Then it gets to the point of; does the outfit/outfits used for this character work for the character? Do these clothes, worn this way, suit the personality we're told she has? Do they convey useful information? Is the overall meaning behind the outfit enhanced or damaged by the way it's worn? The Dresden Codak comic artist's tumblr explores that once in a while. I'll try and find the links.

ETA: Here! (http://dresdencodak.tumblr.com/post/2413085571/costumes-the-wearable-dialog)

Those were good "Hark, A Vagrant" comics (which I just realized I edited out of your post. Oops).

And thanks for the link to the person explaining meaningful character clothing design. It's a great starting point.

... And now I know where Zoombie's last two avatars came from. :D


Tank Girl never really suffered from this (http://www.blogcdn.com/www.comicsalliance.com/media/2011/10/n33611780323386306242.jpg) sort of portrayal even when she was barely covered.

Gah! Just looking at that image makes me itch in ways I prefer not to think about.

Chasing the Horizon
06-20-2012, 06:39 AM
Xena is one of my favorites too, though I haven't watched the show in a LONG time. I was obsessed with her characters as a child, though. I didn't think her outfit was exploitative(sp?). I thought it was beautiful and practical enough, particularly since everyone else, male and female, dressed in a similar way.

The two other female characters I loved as a child were Scully from the X-Files and Dr. Beverly Crusher from Star Trek: TNG. Re-watching the X-Files now, it's depressing that I can't think of a single professional woman on TV now who dresses as reasonably as Scully did. She really looked like an FBI agent, not the Hollywood version of one, even though she was an attractive woman. The whole skeptic/believer angle was way overplayed in the X-Files, but she worked more as an equal with Mulder than any other pairing I can think of. She was smart and tough.

Dr. Crusher in Star Trek was completely awesome. She wasn't over-sexualized (though she also wasn't treated as unattractive, her sexuality was just in the background, where it belongs). She was maternal and caring, not "kick-ass" in the traditional sense, but she was also fierce and always cool under pressure. Her caring was a strength, never a weakness.

Now I guess I should probably go read the thread that spawned this one and see if I've totally missed the point, lol.

Shadow Dragon
06-20-2012, 10:12 AM
How about Seven of Nine from Star Trek: Voyager? Yeah, part of her appeal was that she was a hot cyborg but she was also independent and probably the smartest character in the show.

From the same show there's also Captain Janeway, the only starring female captain in the Star Trek franchise. She kept her crew together despite them being on the other side of the galaxy and completely without federation help.

Mr Flibble
06-20-2012, 01:28 PM
Ah, yes, Janeway's a good one. Smart, sexy without being sexualised, feminine but very very strong. Good call!

BigWords
06-20-2012, 10:20 PM
From the same show there's also Captain Janeway, the only starring female captain in the Star Trek franchise.

Um... Wasn't Janeway a homicidal maniac who hacked Starfleet's computers and took every promotion intended for Picard, instigating wars and killing untold civilians in her mad quest for power? (http://sfdebris.com/videos/startrek/film10.asp)

Bookewyrme
06-21-2012, 03:02 AM
What about Jadzia Dax from Deep Space Nine? I mean, she's both a woman...and not. But her female side is interesting: strong, feminine, smart, determined, intelligent and brave. But each of those is complemented and enhanced by her masculine sides too, so it's hard to know how much is "her" and how much is her symbiont.

I like Kyra Nerys too, from DS9. She's strong (hello, rebel leader!) but also deeply flawed in a lot of ways. But her flaws all stem logically from her history, and they spend air-time letting her develop and overcome some of those flaws.
I admit, I haven't watched the entire series though.

BigWords
06-21-2012, 03:13 AM
Jadzia was fine until they killed her and implanted Dax into... Well, I would say The Ditz (http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Main/TheDitz), but that's being generous. Most of the last season was a mess, but that particular piece of character assassination was the worst. If every episode could have been as good as the one with the former lover, or the journey to slay the albino Klingon... So much potential thrown away.

Kira is interesting for a couple of reasons - firstly, she's able to stand up to Sisko (the embodiment of Starfleet) while not being part of Starfleet - I *think* this is the first time a recurring character was able to say (essentially) "screw you" without their being a big moral lesson in place by the time the end credits rolled around. The other reason I'm fascinated by her place in Trek history is how she was initially going to be Ro Laren, one of my favorite characters from the series. If Ro Laren had taken a place aboard the station, it would have had more ties between the two shows, and made someone at Starfleet (finally) question whether their policies were working regarding the Cardassians.

For another good example of women on film... Death Proof. Watching it again as I type. :D

Ken
06-21-2012, 03:19 AM
...the Cardassians.



... ah yes. The Kardashians. Kim and her sisters are excellent examples of positive female characters.

;-)

Bookewyrme
06-21-2012, 03:23 AM
Ah, yea. Like I said, I haven't watched the entire series, so I'd not seen the new Dax yet, though I knew they killed off Jadzia. It sucks they didn't get as good of a host for the new Dax. :(

I have mixed feelings about Ro. She's in some interesting episodes, but she's just SO angry and untrusting of Captain Picard at first. And, well...he's kinda one of my heroes. Also, I think she's wrong a lot of the time (not about the Cardassians necessarily) about stuff, and she never really seems to learn from being wrong.

ETA: Cross-posted with Ken. But...:e2smack::tongue

BigWords
06-21-2012, 03:28 AM
Ro was such a breath of fresh air for me. By the time of her arrival, the main cast had (arguably) become rather too comfortable - the lack of friction never struck me as realistic. Really, could you spend seven (or whatever) years in close quarters with the same people without losing your shit with them every once in a while? The level of tension inherent in DS9 was what made it (marginally) more believable for me. Not in the same league as B5's in-fighting and scheming, but at least it wasn't Happy Families. Ro was the kick in the ass the show needed, much as what the Maquis in Voyager (ugh) should have been.

BunnyMaz
06-21-2012, 05:24 AM
Oooh thanks for reminding me about Kira and Dax! Loved both of them. Then again, I loved a lot of the characters from DS9. Sisko is definitely my Best Star Trek Captain (derail sorry).

Have to disagree about Death Proof, though. Sure, the girls end the movie by beating the everloving crap out of the bad guy but they seem like pretty much a perfect example of the Strong Female Character trope that Hark A Vagrant made fun of. Not to mention that they kind of sold their friend to the guys they borrowed the car off of, since she was their "guarantee" that the car would be brought back in one piece... and it kind of isn't... and the overtones as they left without her were really, really off. I might be misremembering and I can't find a clip of the scene, but didn't they leave her without even asking/letting her know what they'd done?

BigWords
06-21-2012, 05:42 AM
The movie ends with a lot of questions hanging, but despite being an explicit homage to the exploitation films of the seventies (specifically, though I picked up on other influences) it handles characterization rather better than I initially went to the film expecting - I know that Tarantino can divide audiences, but I hold that his female characters (mostly, with Mia Wallace being the major exception) are strong and capable.

triceretops
06-21-2012, 06:01 AM
Geena Davis in The Long Kiss Goodnight, and the funnier romp Cutthroat Island. In TLKG, she had a slightly on the edge psychotic appeal, a rip in her personality fabric between the genteel housewife and the professional assassin. I think she really pulled it off. And she got her own ship in Cutthroat Island, and pretty much dominated the plot.

Just love, love that little gal in Kick Ass. Okay, not a woman. I knew, after seeing it, that this little girl was going places. Sure enough, saw her in Let Me In.

Natalie Portman and Hillary Swank have really pulled off some memorable, intense roles. I got the love on for Natalie after seeing her in V For Vendetta. Swank is just awesome.

tri

Shadow Dragon
06-21-2012, 08:56 AM
Shifting to a different Gene Rodenberry series, there's Beka Valentine, a smuggler captain and one of the main characters in Andromeda. Tough, feminine, has a cool back story and acts in a very believable manner.

Toothpaste
06-21-2012, 09:26 AM
If TV is included, all the women in THE GOOD WIFE.

Diana Hignutt
06-21-2012, 02:50 PM
Evie in V for Vendetta
Mary Elizabeth Winsted's character in the Thing (prequel-thingy)
Emma Stone's character in Easy A
Melissa George's character in A Lonely Place to Die
Beatrix Kiddo in Kill Bill (aside from being a killer, of course)
Jackie Brown

Diana Hignutt
06-21-2012, 02:51 PM
Just love, love that little gal in Kick Ass. Okay, not a woman. I knew, after seeing it, that this little girl was going places. Sure enough, saw her in Let Me In.



Hit Girl.

BigWords
06-21-2012, 03:30 PM
Okay, for those of you wondering about why I would hesitate to include Janeway, the correct linkage is here (http://blip.tv/sf-debris-opinionated-reviews/star-trek-nemesis-review-part-2-5578759) (the important stuff is four minutes in to the video). It makes much more sense than the canonical material... :D

Mr Flibble
06-21-2012, 04:29 PM
Hmm Janeway outwits every man in the Federation to become Supreme Leader.

Dunnow, sounds pretty empowering to me :D

crunchyblanket
06-23-2012, 07:34 PM
Dana Scully from the X-Files. She's Mulder's equal, not his sidekick, and I really appreciate her being smart, tough, self-sufficient and plenty snarky - when things go bad for her, she picks herself back up and fights some more. Like Sarah Connor in T2, she retains an essential humanity throughout - she's no robot.

Zoe Washburne from Firefly/Serenity - again, although she defers to Mal in terms of authority, she's shown as his equal in terms of skill, determination and strength. It's also pretty cool the way her relationship - in which she is clearly 'wearing the trousers' (god, I hate that phrase) portrayed as one that is both functional and loving, not in spite of her strength and dominance, but because of it.

Ofelia from Pan's Labyrinth - despite the perceived handicaps of being both female and a child, she takes on the Faun's challenges without fear or hesitation. She gets shit done.

BigWords
06-23-2012, 07:43 PM
Ignoring Hannibal (for obvious reasons) I would include Clarice Starling - the initial basis for Scully - as well.

DavidZahir
06-23-2012, 08:09 PM
I'm not quite sure what's meant in this context by "positive." And I notice most examples given have in common certain qualities that aren't necessarily positive at all...like violence, toughness, natural leadership, etc.

But isn't patience also positive? Wisdom? Forgiveness? Generosity? Compassion?

What really bothers me is that the virtues extolled are stereotypically Male and these particular characters receive praise for being Female yet acting as an idealized man.

BigWords
06-23-2012, 08:18 PM
I'm going with "not there for the sole purpose of entertaining a more puerile audience" as one of the big points - others can weigh in with their take on "positive", though the antithesis to the women mentioned in this threads would be... um. I don't want to single out the Russ Meyer canon, but it's hard not to.

Chasing the Horizon
06-23-2012, 10:58 PM
I'm not quite sure what's meant in this context by "positive." And I notice most examples given have in common certain qualities that aren't necessarily positive at all...like violence, toughness, natural leadership, etc.

But isn't patience also positive? Wisdom? Forgiveness? Generosity? Compassion?

What really bothers me is that the virtues extolled are stereotypically Male and these particular characters receive praise for being Female yet acting as an idealized man.
People are praising characters they liked for all sorts of reasons. I cited a character I love for her quiet strength and compassion, as well as others I loved for other reasons.

Toughness and natural leadership are skills to be admired in everyone. They're only considered "stereotypically male" because we live in a sexist society that doesn't want to give women the same credit for leadership qualities that it gives men.

ETA: Also, no woman should be considered less authentic or interesting just because she conforms more to our gender-stereotype of masculine.

crunchyblanket
06-23-2012, 11:23 PM
What really bothers me is that the virtues extolled are stereotypically Male and these particular characters receive praise for being Female yet acting as an idealized man.

The point is, because these qualities are stereotypically male, they're seen as unsuitable or undesirable traits for a woman to embody. Which is rubbish, since a personality trait is subjective, and only our societal gender constructs decide which traits get to be 'masculine' and which 'feminine'. I admire female characters who embody 'traditionally male' traits without these being seen as negative, in part because I like to see the gender binary disassembled, and in part because I personally identify more with these traits.

Mr Flibble
06-24-2012, 12:07 AM
Tongue in cheek, I earlier suggested to BigWords that Servalan might count. Smart, sexy, in charge of herself. Knows what she wants and will do what she wants to get it. Because we don't all have to be good girls (because I find that very irritating - that girls have to be good. Used to annoy the crap out of me in ye olde fantasy. Only the bad girls got a sex life. Made me want to be the bad girl :D) Even Avon respected her, even if he didn't trust her.

Just because she's evil doesn't make her an unrealistic character. Ofc it doesn't really make her positive either, but it IS a change from the norm.

Women are allowed to be evil genii too!

And Servalan was in the Seventies - along with other cast members, like Jenna: one of the best pilots in the galaxy, smart, loyal. Dayna was a weapons expert, outstanding in her field. Brave, reckless, naive - a fully fleshed character in her own right. All the characters were. As opposed to Star Trek, women were allowed to be more than spaceship receptionists...

The whole series was way ahead of its time tbh.

ETA I should probably name the series, right? :D Blake's Seven

Mharvey
06-24-2012, 01:10 AM
I would say Ripley from Alien is of course a great one. Alice from the live action Alice in Wonderland. She was strong willed and intelligent.

Ripley was my first thought.

Others have said Seven of Nine from Voyager. My issue with her is if you changed her gender, the character would be essentially the same. Sure, she's strong and a interesting character, but there was really nothing feminine about her. Just like there would be nothing essentially masculine about a theoretical 'male Seven of Nine.' That's why, I don't really feel she was a great 'female character'... just a cool one.

Sticking to Voyager, I'm surprised Captain Janeway didn't get any love. Phenomenal female character. A strong, powerful woman who, nonetheless, never lost her femininity as was treated with extreme dignity by the writing staff.* I love how, the whole series, she's dealing with her own isolation as the only woman on the ship who cannot take one of the crew as her own. How the sexual chemistry between her and Chakotay continues to be a factor well after Season 2-3 (forget which), but is just one of those things that they cannot allow to happen. Such a path less traveled with the franchise, where you have Kirk stooping every female officer on his bridge and Picard, who is about as asexual as a man can be and still rock. ;)

You didn't admire Janeway because of her breasts or hair - in fact, Kate Mulgrew insisted they stop futzing with her hair after season one and let it get totally messed up as the action happened. You admire her because if you're life is on the line, she's the best damn person to save it and she won't do it with extreme firepower like Picard or dashing heroics like Kirk. She had her own unique style of cunning tactics and inspiring her crew to perform tasks well beyond their training/expectations.

* with sole exception to the unanimously agreed worst episode of Voyager where she was turned into a slug and mated with Tom Paris. I just pretend that one never happened.

BigWords
06-24-2012, 01:23 AM
You didn't admire her because of her breasts or hair - in fact, Kate Mulgrew insisted they stop futzing with her hair after season one and let it get totally messed up as the action happened.

There's one episode (unfortunately one of the episodes with zero science in the science fiction) where she is stripped to her t-shirt, covered in sweat and grime, her hair all out of place, and with a look on her face which screams attitude - for all of the fans gushing over Seven (a character I never really warmed to), that was the moment which defined just how far Star Trek had come since Kirk bounced from episode to episode, in and out of the beds of whatever alien he was screwing that week. It was far from a balanced series, but there were moments where the gender of the character was completely unimportant - it was the actions they took which defined them as people.

Sadly, the show was burdened with some of the weakest writers the franchise had, so the moments of perfection were few and far between.

Mharvey
06-24-2012, 01:28 AM
There's one episode (unfortunately one of the episodes with zero science in the science fiction) where she is stripped to her t-shirt, covered in sweat and grime, her hair all out of place, and with a look on her face which screams attitude - for all of the fans gushing over Seven (a character I never really warmed to), that was the moment which defined just how far Star Trek had come since Kirk bounced from episode to episode, in and out of the beds of whatever alien he was screwing that week. It was far from a balanced series, but there were moments where the gender of the character was completely unimportant - it was the actions they took which defined them as people.

Sadly, the show was burdened with some of the weakest writers the franchise had, so the moments of perfection were few and far between.

I dunno. I found Voyager to be the best series of them all. Granted, it was a close contest with NTG and I certainly didn't dislike DS9. The only one I stopped watching was Enterprise. That was just plain dull.

And sure, there were times where Janeway got to look sexy. I'm not saying it never happened, but I just didn't get the impression they were ever trying to make her into a geeks fantasy. That's a role Seven-of-Nine filled, for sure. Not saying she wasn't also a good character, but let's face it - the first thing you notice about her is the fact her breasts leave the turbolift a full two seconds before she does. I think Jeri Ryan actually complained once because her suit was making her asphyxiate during a summer shoot.

Shadow Dragon
06-24-2012, 01:28 AM
I said Janeway in the same post I said Seven of Nine. Honestly, she's probably my favorite Star Trek captain.

Mharvey
06-24-2012, 01:31 AM
I said Janeway in the same post I said Seven of Nine. Honestly, she's probably my favorite Star Trek captain.

Ah apologies. Missed that.

BigWords
06-24-2012, 01:33 AM
I saw Seven in the same light as Jessica Rabbit - she was an absurd, OTT version of the idealized woman, created by someone who was desperately in need of getting laid. There was nothing remotely realistic about her, so I simply didn't care about her as a character.

Breasts ≠ sexy.

Evaine
06-24-2012, 09:12 PM
I'm going way back into the mists of time, but when I was growing up, I wanted to be like Emma Peel from the Avengers, or Sharon McCready from the Champions. I mean, who wouldn't want the ability to throw men across the room, be cool under fire and have (in the case of the Champions) ESP like powers?
Both Cathy Gale and Emma Peel in the Avengers were strong female role models (I'm now getting an image in my mind of those two, in the black leather and the cat-suit, with Black Widow from the other Avengers - which would be an awesome team!)

Just recently, the actress Caroline John died - she was Liz Shaw in Doctor Who in 1970, a Cambridge scientist who was Companion to the Third Doctor. She may have worn short skirts and long boots under the lab coat, but she was a serious scientist, and she was prepared to argue back to the Doctor. Sarah Jane Smith was also a brilliant Companion, and star of her own spin off series - brave, determined, with rock solid integrity. Who wouldn't want to be Sarah Jane when they grew up?

Alessandra Kelley
06-24-2012, 09:43 PM
I'm going way back into the mists of time, but when I was growing up, I wanted to be like Emma Peel from the Avengers, or Sharon McCready from the Champions. I mean, who wouldn't want the ability to throw men across the room, be cool under fire and have (in the case of the Champions) ESP like powers?
Both Cathy Gale and Emma Peel in the Avengers were strong female role models (I'm now getting an image in my mind of those two, in the black leather and the cat-suit, with Black Widow from the other Avengers - which would be an awesome team!)

Just recently, the actress Caroline John died - she was Liz Shaw in Doctor Who in 1970, a Cambridge scientist who was Companion to the Third Doctor. She may have worn short skirts and long boots under the lab coat, but she was a serious scientist, and she was prepared to argue back to the Doctor. Sarah Jane Smith was also a brilliant Companion, and star of her own spin off series - brave, determined, with rock solid integrity. Who wouldn't want to be Sarah Jane when they grew up?

Ah, Emma Peel. A character who was named for her purpose in the series, and yet whom I can agree was awesome. Possibly because she was so intelligent as well.

Liz Shaw wasn't bad, but they didn't let her do much.

I'm okay with Original Sarah Jane Smith, who was whiny but determined, and Recent Sarah Jane Smith, who was awesome and warm and incredible (recquiescat in pacem, Elisabeth Sladen).

I am not okay with Midpoint Sarah Jane Smith, who was pulled out for the Five Doctors in that awful pink outfit with huge bows all over it and made utterly useless and annoying and screamy. It was only after going back and re-watching old episodes that I realized that The Five Doctors had falsely colored all my memories of Original Sarah Jane, who, while a bit of a moaner, had a good heart.

Evaine
06-25-2012, 09:26 PM
I agree with your assessment of Sarah Jane, actually, Alessandra - she started off in sensible suits and ended up in an Andy Pandy outfit, after all!

RichardGarfinkle
06-27-2012, 02:21 PM
I agree with your assessment of Sarah Jane, actually, Alessandra - she started off in sensible suits and ended up in an Andy Pandy outfit, after all!

There's been some pretty recent similar trends in strong female characters being, for want of a better word, wimped down. I've been watching some of the quirkier detective / forensic shows. Two in particular that I liked are losing the edge from their characters: Bones and Rizzoli & Isles.

Spoiler space






The last several seasons of Bones have turned Temperence Brennan from independent and super smart to disfunctionally detached. The season finale had her being framed and going on the run protected by her father and her lover.

This season of Rizzoli & Isles has a lot more soap opera to it, and last night they announced a viewer contest that was creepy in context. The plot of the episode involved a serial killer who kills young women then dresses them up like dolls. Late in the episode the network announces a contest to be able to "dress Maura up". I.e. to pick clothes for one of the main characters. Even without the plot that has some creepy elements to it, in context (shudder).

Camilla Delvalle
06-27-2012, 10:01 PM
I'm not quite sure what's meant in this context by "positive." And I notice most examples given have in common certain qualities that aren't necessarily positive at all...like violence, toughness, natural leadership, etc.

But isn't patience also positive? Wisdom? Forgiveness? Generosity? Compassion?

What really bothers me is that the virtues extolled are stereotypically Male and these particular characters receive praise for being Female yet acting as an idealized man.
The names mentioned in this thread appears to me to be a balanced collection of different personalities.

The question is interesting though, in general. I found that the first names that I myself thought of were women using a lot of violence.

This could though have something to do with genre. In an action or war movie it is difficult to have a main character like Ripley appear strong if they do not use violence. Not to forget that Ripley also shows softer sides by e.g. caring for the girl they find in the second movie.

One example of a woman that is a leader without using violence is Daenerys Targaryen. She has dragons and soldiers doing the killing part.

If we are to look for other qualities than a proficency in killing, we may have to examine other genres like romance or drama.

BunnyMaz
06-27-2012, 10:20 PM
The names mentioned in this thread appears to me to be a balanced collection of different personalities.

The question is interesting though, in general. I found that the first names that I myself thought of were women using a lot of violence.

This could though have something to do with genre. In an action or war movie it is difficult to have a main character like Ripley appear strong if they do not use violence. Not to forget that Ripley also shows softer sides by e.g. caring for the girl they find in the second movie.

One example of a woman that is a leader without using violence is Daenerys Targaryen. She has dragons and soldiers doing the killing part.

If we are to look for other qualities than a proficency in killing, we may have to examine other genres like romance or drama.

Actually, Ripley's soft side (which you mentioned) was one of the reasons I chose her. She's not a Strong Female Character in the tropey sense - she's a complex, human character with fears and vulnerabilities and a nurturing side who loves her cat, and she kicks arse when she needs to. But she doesn't go looking for danger, and in Aliens initially refused point blank to "go back there" when asked.

Xena, too. She is probably what a lot of people initially think of when they think of Tropey strong women, but if you rewatch episodes there's a lot of humanity in her. Clumsily done of course, because the entire series was a cheese-fest of the highest order, but she falls in love, feels regret for her past mistakes, feels real grief over giving up her son as an infant and makes difficult decisions, sometimes the wrong ones.

Camilla Delvalle
06-28-2012, 01:12 AM
And later Xena got a daughter too.

Mr Flibble
06-28-2012, 12:56 PM
What really bothers me is that the virtues extolled are stereotypically Male and these particular characters receive praise for being Female yet acting as an idealized man.

Well I did suggest the cast of Steel Magnolias....

alimay
06-28-2012, 01:51 PM
Ripley was my first thought.

Others have said Seven of Nine from Voyager. My issue with her is if you changed her gender, the character would be essentially the same.

Really interesting that you said that, because in the original script for Alien all the crewmembers of the Nostromo were male (actually unisex, so they could be played by either male or female actors). I'm not sure to what degree the script was changed when they cast Sigourney Weaver, but from memory I'm guessing it didn't have to be changed all that much.

(In Aliens, of course, the fact that she's female becomes more relevant.)

Aaaand, now I'm going to have to rewatch the series.

Ali