This week’s video tells you the only true definition of strong female characters—and how you can use it to make your own heroines even more compelling and interesting.
An issue we hear a lot about these days is that of strong female characters. A lot of people argue that strong female characters are under-represented in modern books and movies, and there’s certainly a good deal of truth to this—although we’ve undeniably come a long way from the sugary one-dimensional heroines of Charles Dickens.
But I think it’s really useful to analyze what strong female characters actually are.
There’s the Bechdel Test that says that, in order for a story to qualify as having strong female characters, it has to feature a plot that allows at least two women to have a conversation about something other than a man. That raises some interesting points, but what it definitely doesn’t do is define character.
So let me tell you how I define strong female characters. It’s really simple: a strong female character—or really any character—is one who is a catalyst. She’s someone who causes things to happen in the plot. She’s not a passive object.
Director Joss Whedon took some surprising flak for his treatment of Black Widow in Age of Ultron. And he took this flak for the simple reason that he allowed Widow—after three movies—to finally show a softer, more feminine side.
Did this somehow make her a weaker character? Well, let’s see, is she still a catalyst? Is she still out there making things happen and moving the plot? Yup. So I’d say that’s still a strong character.
Because this is another really important thing to note: strong female characters don’t mean masculine or emotionless or flawless female characters—because, frankly, more often than not, that’s just going to be unrealistic. (I would argue that the most sexist representation of Black Widow in any of her movies was the first one, in which she was nothing more than a beach-curled, bad-guy-kicking, leather-clad, tough-chick stereotype.)
A strong character—female or male—is one with realistic strengths and flaws who acts as an integral catalyst that moves the plot. If your characters are doing that, then they’re not going to be weaklings.