the (un)funny feminist introduces: My New Favorite Strong Female Character!

70s show laughing

To be fair, I don’t know if Madéleine Flores, creator of the web comic Help Us Great Warrior!, thinks of her diminutive, headbow-adorned Great Warrior as a Strong Female Character. But, I mean, C’MON. Check out this cutie badass:

“What do you look for in a man?” Help Us Great Warrior! (Oct. 23, 2013)

In Flores’ words,

Help Us! Great Warrior is about a very powerful and Great Warrior who lives in a village with the villagers she protects. Not everyone is smart but everyone tries to be brave.

Sounds like my kinda village.

In the process of protecting her village, Great Warrior battles dragons and breaks evil curses. She demonstrates mad skills. She is not-having-it with your food policing. And she makes time to get proper rest and go dancing with friends. She may have even given me some new ideas about my on-going insomnia!

Thank you, Great Warrior!

I’m always on the look-out for new SFCs I can love, from straight-up embodiments of the trope (Hey there, Buffy! *waves* Say hi to Ripley for me, would ya?) to mocking send-ups. Got any favorites of your own to recommend?

PostScript: Links for further (less funny-haha) reading

Now, me being Me–and this being My Blog–I can’t just leave it there, at that perfectly reasonable ending note. Nope. Gotta go a little academic on y’all for a moment, and share some of my favorite readings on the problem of the Strong Female Character™:

I hate Strong Female Characters, Sophia McDougal

Are our best-loved male heroes Strong Male Characters? Is, say, Sherlock Holmes strong?… It’s not just that the answer is “of course”, it’s that it’s the wrong question.

What happens when one tries to fit other iconic male heroes into an imaginary “Strong Male Character” box?  A few fit reasonably well, but many look cramped and bewildered in there. They’re not used to this kind of confinement, poor things. They’re used to being interesting across more than one axis and in more than two dimensions.

Nowadays the princesses all know kung fu, and yet they’re still the same princesses. They’re still love interests, still the one girl in a team of five boys, and they’re all kind of the same. They march on screen, punch someone to show how they don’t take no shit, throw around a couple of one-liners or forcibly kiss someone because getting consent is for wimps, and then with ladylike discretion they back out of the narrative’s way.

We’re losing all our Strong Female Characters to Trinity Syndrome, Tasha Robinson
[SFC in movies]

Bringing in a Strong Female Character™ isn’t actually a feminist statement, or an inclusionary statement, or even a basic equality statement, if the character doesn’t have any reason to be in the story except to let filmmakers point at her on the poster and say “See? This film totally respects strong women!”

So here’s a quick questionnaire for filmmakers who’ve created a female character who isn’t a dishrag, a harpy, a McGuffin to be passed around, or a sex toy. Congratulations, you have a Strong Female Character. That’s a great start! But now what? Screenwriters, producers, directors, consider this:

[the ensuing 8 question list is definitely worth a read!]

What did they do to you?: Our women heroes problem, Leigh Alexander
[SFC in video games]

There is still little exploration of how heroic qualities — not necessarily “strength”, but relatability, motivation, complexity — in women can exist independently. There are still few roles for them other than catalyst for male revelation or victim defined by male abuse.

All people exist in an ecosystem and are defined by their experiences and affected by the people in their lives. But when we want to know why our favorite male leads are the way they are, we don’t just think about the women who happened to them or the trauma they endured: We think about their beliefs, their thoughts and feelings, their goals and desires. Their personalities, their habits, their quirks, their flaws.

This isn’t to say that videogames’ square-jawed, square-shouldered guy heroes always have a good infrastructure to answer those questions (nor always need one). Perhaps if we uncoupled the weird cause-and-effect relationship games seem to have between suffering women and men, we’d have more nuanced male characters, too. Why don’t we see more men who get to be broken, for example? Many studies say men are less likely to seek help for mental health issues than women — why reinforce that as correct?

And most of all, I’d like to see more games that see women as people, not the passive sum of what they endure until they’re “done”, ready to come out of the oven and fight.

And with that, the actual ending note. Take it away, Hark, a vagrant’s Strong Female Characters!

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