The Strong Female Character and its Importance


Hera Serna, Staff writer

For years fiction has influenced millions of people, whether it be words on pages or expressions on film. Thousands of people could simply watch a movie or read a book and gain a certain type of inspiration from one of the leading characters. Some of these characters even inspired their works of fiction that became largely popular. Stories like Hamlet, Dracula, and The Time Machine are inspirations for hundreds of other stories that you can see even now. However, as fiction evolved so did the characters that were being produced. Soon after, books like Pride and Prejudice along with Little Women became what is known today as classics. Why did these books have such a large success compared to others that were considered the birth of horror or science fiction?

 It’s because they had something that wasn’t yet considered. They had a female that strived to achieve more than the bare minimum. Pride and Prejudice showed the main female, Elizabeth Bennet, as a strong woman who will protect her family, speak her mind, and make her own choices. This type of character was considered to be what we know today as a strong female of fiction. A female that can make decisions for others, defend the people who are important to her, and speak up to the injustice she faces is what makes a strong female character. This created the outline for characters like Hermione Granger, Leia Organa, and Ellen Ripley to be written. Females were no longer looked at as the damsel in distress but could now be the heroine of their own story. This became an even greater feat as it also came to inspire females in their own daily lives. One of the most inspiring characters has been Ellen Ripley since her debut in Alien. She was never seeking out anyone’s approval but instead dressing in clothes that suit her job and don’t care whether she’s seen as aggressive or rude in the process. Her character traits made her a strong female character but this type of character also created a problem with what is considered the strong female.

  The great thing about these characters was that they could be anyone. They didn’t have to be the chosen one or have superpowers, but that seems to be one of the most common misconceptions about this type of character. When writing about the strong female many cannot seem to find the difference between a strong female and a strong female character.  The big hint now being the word character at the end. In a New York Times essay, Director and Actress Brit Marling describes the strong female as, “She’s an assassin, a spy, a soldier, a superhero, a C.E.O. She can make a wound compress out of a maxi pad while on the lam. She’s got MacGyver’s resourcefulness but looks better in a tank top…” It’s undeniably exciting to see characters like Marvel’s Gamora go toe to toe with her father Thanos and prove that she is just as physically strong as anyone else in the MCU. However, this female is strong, but does not hold the title of a strong female character. On the other hand, a character like Sarah Connor, from the terminator film series, is one of the many females that are confused as a strong female. The difference is that Sarah Connor was just a human being and Gamora an alien from another world. While Gamora gave up her life to defend the universe, Sarah Connor portrayed a mother who would go to any lengths to keep her son safe. The loss of the character at the end of a strong female doesn’t make Gamora less valid or strong, but only less human and relatable as a strong female character would.

On the other side, voice actor Jennifer Hale believes that the idea of a strong female character should be removed entirely for the fact that it limits a character. In an interview with Game Rant she explained that “When they’ll work regardless of their gender, there’s your cue. When they’re just a human being. The minute you put that gender label on them you create a limitation. If you use it like a character choice, a life choice, a person who has retreated into their particular brand of femininity for safety or for power- that’s a specific choice and a very complex being. But it’s a human being making that choice. ” Jennifer Hale wishes that the entertainment industry would, “Remove all gender and ethnicity from your labeling because it opens everything up to everyone.” An example of this would be the character Samus from the 1986 game Metroid. Samus goes on an adventure in space to retrieve the parasitic Metroid organisms that were stolen from space pirates. It isn’t revealed, however, until the very end of that game that the character had been a female the whole time without even the player knowing.

8th-grade student Anastasia Rhodes explained that when she thinks of a female character her mind goes straight to Mulan saying, “I think of Mulan because when things get tough, Mulan didn’t fall apart and give up, she fought for what she believed in.” On the other hand, 8th-grade student Julia Sanchez claimed that the only female character she could think of would be Katniss Everdeen, “I think of Katniss from the Hunger Games but I read that book a while ago and haven’t seen any strong female leads since.” Both characters are widely iconic and fight for the sake of their family. Katniss shows bravery to protect her younger sister whilst Mulan must place herself on the battlefield to protect her father. Both students agreed however that a strong female character must be a character that is persistent and never stands down, especially when their family needs them.

What started as a way to simply entertain a crowd became a way that inspired others in times of need or vulnerability. Strong Female Characters showed females that someone just like them was able to overcome even the greatest obstacles. It didn’t stop at just the action heroes though. Characters like Selina Meyer from Veep, Leslie Knope from Parks and Recreation, or Miranda Priestly from The Devil Wears Prada. They were all females that had the backbone to challenge anyone who came in their way whether they were man or woman and now you can be just like them.