[September 5, 2023] I’m a fan of movie critic Scotsman Will Jordan, aka The Critical Drinker. I like how he slams modern films because they are written by immature, narcissistic, selfish, woke man-children. Last year, I wrote about one of his videos explaining why modern movies suck (link here), and it was very popular. Today, I’m highlighting something I found interesting: filmmakers are pushing the “strong female character” and how the public is rejecting them.
Sarah Connor (The Terminator), Clarice Starling (Silence of the Lambs), Ellen Ripley (Alien), Marion Ravenwood (Indiana Jones), Princess Leia (Star Wars), Eowin (Lord of the Rings), Emily Blunt (Edge of Tomorrow), and Beth Harmon (The Queen’s Gambit) are just a few of the compassionate, brave, compelling, well-written female characters that have emerged in the last 50 years of film and television characters that left their mark on whole generations of audiences. Critical Drinker has a different take on the “strong female character.” He sees them as a shallow, trite, cheaply made, gratingly unpleasant facsimile of these excellent ladies of the Big Silver Screen.
The Critical Drinker says that all these new female characters have to be labeled as strong, and this is one of the first words to describe these characters that comes from writers, actors, directors, and marketing departments. He sees this recent movement to put women into strong roles in every project, even if it is unnecessary or counterproductive. He tells us what Emily Blunt once said:
“It’s the worst thing ever when you open a script and read the words ‘strong female lead.” That makes me roll my eyes. I’m already out. I’m bored. Those roles are written as incredibly stoic; you spend the whole time acting tough and saying tough things.” – Emily Blunt
The strong female character is a cliché that is hollow, simplistic, and meaningless as all those soulless corporations that will happily use social movements as an excuse to sell you useless crap. But why is this happening? What differentiates a good female character from a “strong female character?”
The problem is one of competency. A good character is presented with a difficulty they have to overcome, whether it’s an opponent to be defeated, a goal to be reached, or even a personal failure or weakness that has to be tackled. This requires the character to grow or change to become better than they were before. They’ll often be given a mentor figure to guide them on their path, and they will struggle and fail along the way. And the more you see a character who suffers setbacks and personal failures, the more you tend to empathize with them. Here’s an important point he makes: Storytellers have known this for thousands of years, which is why they tend to follow the same basic structure.
“Strong female characters” don’t work that way. A “strong female character” will almost always be supremely good at whatever she does, succeeding immediately or teaching herself with minimal effort. They’re generally not allowed to have older mentors to teach them things, especially not male ones, because that would send the message that women need men to help them succeed.
The result is a character that doesn’t face any real struggle or challenge or suffer a major setback from which they will have to bounce back. They’re almost never allowed to fail because the writers incorrectly associate failure with weakness rather than seeing it for what it is: a necessary part of personal growth. Failure doesn’t define the character; how they react to it matters. Without failure, there is no chance for growth and development.
What “strong female characters” tend to focus on instead is self-actualization, the idea that she already has everything she needs to succeed, and all that’s required is to let go of the limitations imposed on her by others. The message to the audience is simple: You are perfect the way you are, and the rest of the world must change. The problem is that when you remove struggle, failure, weakness, and vulnerability, you don’t leave the audience with a whole lot to emphasize. Instead, you wind up with an empty shell of a character with a superficial appearance of strength and empowerment but nothing substantial or meaningful driving it.
I could go on, but I think you get the point. Scotsman Will Jordan gives plenty of examples in his video that you can see for yourself here (see link). He also talks about how reality doesn’t gel too well with modern Hollywood ideology that men and women are exactly the same at everything.
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