I hate Strong Female Characters & creating new archetypes 0 Comments

I hate Strong Female Characters & creating new archetypes

Sophia McDougall’s August article in the New Statesman, I hate Strong Female Characters really struck a chord with me. Two weeks after reading it, I’m still talking about it, so something must have clicked. McDougall’s central argument revolves around ‘the patronising promise of the Strong Female Character’ – presented as anomalous (i.e. this character is special because she’s strong and ‘normal women are weak and boring and can’t do anything worthwhile’) and ultimately one-dimensional.

McDougall’s questions why we are expected to be accepting of and excited by SFCs because they kick ass or break the mould of previous archetypes like whores and god’s police. Is one dominating character trait enough, even if it differs from previously normative traits? McDougall points out that merely being ‘strong’ is a fairly small and uncomfortable box that believable and well-written male characters aren’t expected to be confined to.





Why celebrate SFCs when that is as good as it gets? When in contrast, male protagonists are not only strong, but also intelligent, moody, vulnerable, abrasive, Bohemian, whimsical, neurotic, sad, vain, rude, courteous, artistic and the list of contradictory adjectives goes on. Just because the SFC isn’t a sex kitten or a nun or puts up with/cuts to pieces the cards that she’s dealt doesn’t mean she isn’t still a one-dimensional side kick to the real action.


no time for feelings

Of course male characters are not necessarily perfect, portrayed with real depth or breaking the archetypal moulds of old either, and gender is only one lens through which to criticise the imbalance of archetypes and uneven spread of multifaceted protagonists (race and sexuality provide interesting lenses too, to name a few). However, McDougall’s argument that the SFC is a facade hiding old tropes is well founded. I find this particularly interesting when thinking about the creation of new archetypes. How do you create new archetypes? What happens when the audience and other creators don’t have the pop-cultural vocabulary to interpret new archetypes?


Joss Whedon SFCs



Read the rest of this article and more over at Izzy’s blog



Izzy (22) writes plays and poetry mostly. She studies literature and professional communications at RMIT, writes reviews (mostly of theatre and live music), thinks about media theory and feminism a lot, and is a tiny bit addicted to twitter.

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