Why the ‘Strong Female Character’ is Bad

There is a real problem in the film industry at the moment regarding the idea of the Strong Female Character. Particularly in the sci-fi genre. The reason I am discussing this at the moment is because I am currently studying the A2 Media course at college, and this is the problem that I am exploring for my coursework.

The three films that I have chosen to analyse for that case study are The Hunger Games, Thor and Guardians of the Galaxy. In this post, I will be talking primarily about Guardians of the Galaxy.

I won’t spend too much time explaining the Strong Female Character, as I think this article does it perfectly. Basically, the problem is that the Strong Female Character is being interpreted in the wrong way. Female characters are too often being created simply because the creators believe that they need them. If a film is made with no female characters at all, it will be rightly criticised for it. What the ‘Strong Female Character’ should mean, is to have a ‘Well-Written Female Character’ or a ‘Three-Dimensional Female Character’.

It’s not enough to simply stick a character in there for the sake of it. They need to do something. They need to be wound into the plot. And while being a love interest is fine, if they have no character outside of that romance, then she loses all credibility. Where’s the gender equality in having a female character who simply follows the men around? Where’s the equality when her character is defined by the kiss scene, when she gives herself to the male protagonist as a trophy?

Guardians of the Galaxy is an extremely male-dominated film with only two memorable female characters: adopted sisters, Gamora and Nebula. Gamora, who is quoted as saying “I’m a warrior and a weapon”, is a trained assassin. She is actually a fairly well-written character, with her own motives, wants, needs and fears that become apparent throughout the film. But what is she doing there? She could very easily be replaced with a male character, and the other members of the cast would probably manage just fine without her. After all, it’s really the talking raccoon and animate tree that hold the group together. Of course.

Clearly, the retailers didn’t think she was particularly important as they left her off of their merchandise.

gog merch1 gog merch2

When confronted by a twitter user, the clothing manufacturer ‘The Children’s Place’ responded with this:

gog merch3I am sure that you can see the problem with this. Mothers of young girls who wondered why their favourite character wasn’t on their new pyjamas, had to be told that they’re not good enough to be on their clothing. Attitudes like this are adding to the cultural idea that women cannot equal men in a male-dominated genre.

There are still no female main characters in superhero films. Black Widow is the closest that we have got at the moment. There is currently a film out where a talking raccoon is considered to be more inspirational and have more purpose than the female character. What does this say about our society? What is this teaching children?

 

THEATRE REVIEW: Les Miserables at Queen’s Theatre, London

les mis master of the houseThe West End’s Les Miserables, is a humorous and heart-breaking adaptation of Victor Hugo’s (who also wrote The Hunchback of Notre Dame) novel of the same title, brought to life through the marvellous medium of song. I will admit that I went to see this way back in March and there has been a cast change since then but I assure you that it remains just as spectacular as it was all those months ago.

The story takes place in pre-revolutionary Paris, where the impoverished are kept in poverty and the rich become wealthier. After Jean Valjean (Daniel Koek [covered by Chris Holland on the date I saw]), a man who broke his parole, witnesses the death of Fantine (Na-Young Jeon), a woman who formerly worked in his factory, he takes her daughter, Cosette (Samantha Dorsey), into his care. She was previously being taken in by the Thenardiers (Cameron Blakely & Wendy Ferguson), who abused her.

Years later, revolutionary groups are being created. One of them is run by Enjolras (Anton Zetterholm), and is participated in by Marius Pontmercy (Rob Houchen). The Thenardiers’ daughter, Eponine (Carrie Hope Fletcher) is hopelessly in love with him, which he is oblivious to. Instead, Marius falls in love at first sight with the now-older Cosette. Because the police inspector, Jarvert (Tam Mutu), almost finds them after searching for years, Valjean and Cosette are forced to run for England, leaving Marius behind.

Meanwhile, Enjolras is planning a movement against the monarchy. As the battle rages on, many characters die, but Marius and Cosette end up together, marrying with Valjean’s blessing.

les misThe set of the West End production is spectacular. Based on a revolving stage, the main piece of scenery is a gigantic structure that the actors are able to move around and transform while transitioning between scenes. It changes beautifully from a building to a barricade.

The music is absolutely unforgettable. Even as I sit here six months later, I can still hear it in my head. Not only the songs with lyrics that will make you weep, but also the twinkly transition music, full of hope and stars. The music of Les Miserables is simply magical. There is nothing like it in the world.

Adam Linstead’s solo verse as Grantaire in the song Drink With Me is such a heartfelt, poignant moment. It was a travesty to cut them from the film version, as I truly believe that those words have so much meaning for all of the characters, and show the theme of the entire musical.

“Drink with me to days gone by,

Could it be you’re scared to die?

Will the world remember you when you fall?

Could it be your lives mean nothing at all?

Are our lives just one more lie?”

carrie as eponine1Of course, the acting is astounding. Carrie Hope Fletcher, in particular, shines. She brings the character of poor Eponine to life, depicting her as a girl who never really knew love but had a lot of it to give. With a stunning singing voice, Carrie is an extremely talented lady with a bright future ahead of her. She will be taking some time out as Eponine this year while she is touring the country as Beth from The War of the Worlds – The Final Arena Tour. Look here to see if tickets are selling in your area. You can also visit her YouTube channel here.

After the show, I briefly met Carrie as well as Jonny Purchase and Dale Hodge, who are members of the ensemble. Everyone was lovely, taking the time to talk to their fans despite not having long for their between-shows break.

Other stand-out talent included Anton Zetterholm, Tam Mutu, Rob Houchen, Wendy Ferguson and Adam Linstead.

If you get the chance, Les Miserables is a monumentally impressive show and I recommend that you go see it when you can. The current cast are:-

Jean Valjean………Peter Lockyer

Javert………David Thaxton

Fantine………Celinde Shoenmaker

Thenardier………Tom Edden

Madame Thenardier………Wendy Ferguson

Eponine………Carrie Hope Fletcher

Cosette………Emilie Flemming

Enjolras………Michael Colbourne

Marius………Rob Houchen

I would recommend this to:-

  • Anyone who isn’t afraid to cry.
  • Revolutionaries.

Star Rating: StarStarStarStarStar

(Pictures of the 2014 cast belong to Johan Persson.)