The other day I was watching Legally Blonde 2 with my mom. About 10 minutes into the film I turned to my mom and said “you know what I like about Elle Woods? She’s a traditionally feminine woman but she is still a really strong character.” The reason I felt the need to point that out was because 1) because she is. and 2) because I don’t think there is quite enough of that in the media.
Don’t get me wrong we are living in a glorious age of strong women in the media with our Black Widows (where’s my black widow movie?), Katniss Everdeens, and a dozen others that I could mention. IT IS GREAT! I love all those girls. I want to be all of those girls. But there is still a trend in strong female characters that I don’t like. They’re all the same. I didn’t realize it until my dad pointed out to me that I “always like the sarcastic leather clad women in movies.” Which is true, I love strong female characters who kick a lot of ass and that is generally what a strong ass-kicking female character looks like.
We don’t get a lot of other kinds of strong female characters except the occasional Elle Woods and Miss Piggy (more on Miss Piggy in a minute). How dumb is that? Sarcastic leather clad women spies and revolutionaries probably take up less than half of the female population (but I don’t have the numbers on that) what about the other girls? Who are they supposed to look at? What about traditionally feminine girls? There are a lot of shows portraying them but not always as smart, not always as strong, and usually as supporting characters to the less traditional ones?It bothers me because I want more variety.
There is one more trend in strong female characters that bothers me. We always talk about them as if they are something new and odd. Authors and directors are often asked why they write such strong female characters. The best response I’ve ever heard was Joss Wheadon’s “because you’re still asking me that question.” Why are we still asking that question? In 2015 after we have had Miss Piggy and Buffy the vampire slayer for decades (literally decades) why is that still a question to be asked (I’m not trying to be on a feminist soap box I promise)? And why is there only one flavor?
I don’t know where I was originally going with this except that it is something that bothers me from time to time. I think it is because I have always really liked Miss Piggy and wanted more characters who were like her.
Just wait. Hear me out.
Miss Piggy is a great female character. She is traditionally feminine, she likes fashion and chocolate and wants nothing more than to marry her long time boyfriend. That being said, have you seen how bad ass she is? In Muppets in Space she beats up a guard at a top secret government facility and she handles herself in literally every other Muppet movie she handles herself with poise, grace, and a powerful right hook, including the most recent installment Muppets: Most Wanted when she beats up the worlds most dangerous criminal. I’m pointing all of this out because in spite of being a muppet she just might be the most interesting female character in modern media (that’s a very grand statement. Oh well, can’t take it back now).
Now considering that Miss Piggy has been around since the 70s and that we have so many other strong female characters, I am in a constant state of wondering why we always feel the need to talk about strong female characters as if they were something new. Maybe if we just acted like women can be strong in many different ways we would get over this idea that they can’t. And maybe we should stop being surprised when we see them.
I love LOVE strong female characters. Its just that sometimes I get tired of hearing people talk about them. I get tired of the idea that strong women are something new. Women are strong and that includes traditionally feminine ones. I may not be traditionally feminine ( I do lean more into the black widow/tomboy demographic) but I want to see more characters who are. I want to see interesting, real, female characters and I don’t think we need to talk about them all the time.