Arts and Living Editor
Clad in a leather catsuit and a switch-blade smile of red lipstick, our heroine slides in effortlessly in her stiletto heels. She sighs with a flick of her perfect curls and rolls her eyes as she professes with such coolness, “Boys.”
She’s sexy, she picks up after the men and most importantly, she is I-N-D-E-P-E-N-D-E-N-T.
From books to film, we cannot escape the established idea of the femme fatale and praise the archetype for its portrayal of women. Truthfully, this conception of strong is harmful and shallow.
The problem is that strong is the word most heavily relied on. It’s meant as strong actions, not strong character.
Writers and directors shifted focus to what a character must accomplish to be strong rather than what it takes to get them there. They don’t focus on females as people with motives and traits to allow character development.
Take Katniss Everdeen. While she never cleaned up after the boys, she wore her fair share of leather, led a rebellion and outsmarted the world’s deadliest game. These are all astonishing achievements for one character to have.
Her progression to how she got to these places in the story makes sense, but the most basic ideas are missing.
Can you think of a defining trait for Katniss? And not a basic trait like kind, brave or rebellious.
Neither can most people. Katniss Everdeen, like many before and after her, is defined by what she did, not who she was.
The male gaze has an effect on strong female characters being portrayed with perfect makeup and unable to cry in any fashion that isn’t a single, gliding tear. This fear of making a female character have flaws, and a personality as a result, is a writer’s fault.
Perhaps this comes from a fear of not exemplifying the “woke” way which the world seems to now run its course. It’s this idea of a female character not being the epitome of a fearless machine as strong as her male counterparts.
Even Harry Potter changed Hermione in the screenplay adaption to a perfect, unshakable student and strayed away from her roots as a muggle-born girl who couldn’t think quickly in danger and didn’t always turn to the perfect spell.
If a writer hopes to create female characters, they must write women for all they encompass. Let them be cruel and weak. Feminine and soft. Strong and tomboyish.
Make sure they cause mishaps and make terrible mistakes. Define them as the stories they are, not the ones they are navigating.
Strength in a character is found in making them dynamic and real – not in leather catsuits.