Why Modern Movies Suck - The Strong Female Character (2023)


One of the most tiresome tropes of the past ten years in moviemaking is the "Strong Female Character." Not women who are smart, capable, well written and complex, but bland, boring, superficially "strong" characters designed to pander to simplistic ideals of female empowerment.

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Sarah Connor Clary Starling Buffy, Summers, Ellen, Ripley, Marion, Ravenwood, Princess, Leia, Dana, Scully, Samantha, Carter, eowin, VI, Aaron, Sun, nyota, Uhura, Beth, Harmon, Kara, Thrace and Rita vertaski.

These are just a few examples of the many intelligent, complex, compassionate Brave, compelling and well-written female characters that have emerged in the past 50 years of film and TV characters that have left their mark on whole generations of audiences to the point where they still resonate with people years or even decades after their creation.

But then there's a different kind of character.

A shallow trite cheaply made gratingly unpleasant facsimile of these excellent.

Ladies of the Silver Screen, a phenomenon known only as the strong female character.

Honestly, it seems like just about every character without a y chromosome.

These days automatically has to be labeled as strong.

It's one of the first words to come tumbling out of the mouths of the writers, actors, directors and marketing departments.

Whenever they're asked about it- and it's been overused to the point where it's become completely and totally meaningless, just another expected buzzword in the endless corporate approved word salad that has to be sprinkled on every new project.

Now, in fact, Emily Blunt said it better than I ever.

Could it's the worst thing ever when you open a script and read the words strong female leads that makes me roll my eyes I'm already out I'm bored, those rules are written as incredibly stoic.

You spend the whole time acting tough and seeing tough things.

Oh stop it.

Emily I can only like you so much.

The thing is, though, she's absolutely right on this one: the strong female character, cliche is as Hollow simplistic and meaningless as all those soulless corporations that will happily use social movements as an excuse to sell your more useless tat that was probably made in an Indian Sweatshop.

But why is this happening? What is it that makes a good female character different from a strong female character? Well, let's explore this together.

Shall we the first problem? Is one of Competency see one of the core elements of any character? Arc is presenting them with a challenge or difficulty that they have to overcome, whether it's an opponent to be defeated, a goal to be reached, or even a personal feeling or weakness that has to be tackleds.

All of this stuff requires the character to grow or change in some way to become better than who they were before.

They'll often be given some kind of Mentor figure to guide them on their path and they're likely going to struggle and fail along the way.

It's all part of the learning process and the more you see a character, suffer setbacks and personal failures.

The more you tend to empathize with them.

It's basic human nature.

Storytellers have known this for thousands of years, which is why most stories tend to follow the same basic structure, taking the audience on an emotional roller coaster and delivering a satisfying payoff by the ends, but strong female characters.

Don't work that way.

A strong female character will almost always be supremely good at whatever she does either succeeding right off the bat 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 out the message that women need men to help them succeed.

The result is a character that doesn't really face any serious struggles or challenges or suffer major setbacks that they have to bounce back from they're almost never allowed to fail, because the writers incorrectly associate failure with weakness rather than seeing it for what it actually is unnecessary part of personal growth.

Failure itself doesn't Define the character, it's how they react to it that matters and if there's no failure, then there's no chance for growth and developments.

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're, perfect, the way you are and it's the rest of the world that has the change nice.

One can't see that backfiring for people when they try to apply that to their real lives, take Captain Marvel forcefully removing the control chip that keeps their powers contained.

It's a symbolic gesture of the strong, empowered woman, throwing off the shackles and posed on her by his Society, so that she can realize her true potential.

It's a nice idea that probably had the writers patting themselves on the back, but the problem is that when you remove struggle failure, weakness and vulnerability, you don't leave the audience with a whole lot to empathize with.

We don't need to feel invested in whether a strong female character is going to succeed, because the writers give us no reason to question or doubt it and what you end up with instead is an empty shell of a character with the superficial, appearance of strength and empowerment, but nothing substantial or meaningful driving it and it all just comes across as wish fulfillment the desires and angst of the writers to see their character.

Do the things they always wish they could do and if you want an extreme example of this, just watch an episode of She-Hulk, which brings me along to my next Point Physical strength, one of the most tedious and embarrassing aspects of modern movies is watching a hundred pound actress plowing through a series of extremely accommodating stuntmen, twice her size, because the writers mistakenly believe that the only way for a character to be strong is through Feats of actual dual physical strength, because, after all, how can a woman possibly be equal to a man if she's not as physically capable as him? The problem is you're always going to have a tough time, selling a fight between a man and a woman on screen.

For obvious reasons, men are generally bigger, stronger and more robust with denser and heavier bones: stronger muscles, broader shoulders, longer Limbs and Superior upper body.


Add all of that stuff together and you've got a huge Advantage when it comes to the application of physical violence.

The problem is that this reality doesn't gel too well with the modern Hollywood ideology that men and women are exactly the same.

At everything, so how do they get around it? You might ask: do they carefully structure and choreograph male female fight scenes to have the woman make clever use of her environment, the element of surprise or improvised weapons? To even the odds? Do they hire large physically imposing actresses, who actually look like they could take on a fully grown man? Or do they say [ __ ] it we'll just pretend that size and strength doesn't matter anymore.

I, think you know the answer already like in this scene from the woman King, where a 57 year old, five foot, five inch, Viola Davis, takes on a 29 year old, six foot tall man, who's built like a heavyweight boxer, he's literally half her age and twice her size.

A single one of these Haymaker punches would probably shatter most of the bones in her face fracture her skull and cause severe brain injuries and yeah there.

She is tanking them like she's, Rocky Balboa.

Nobody is buying this because they know that an actual fight like this would be over in about four seconds.

But if you want an extremely rare example of how stuff like this would actually go down, check out this scene from sicario where main character Kate punches a CIA officer full in the face as hard as she can, and it barely even phases him.

Then he promptly knocks her on her ass in response.

This is what actually tends to happen when you try to take down someone who's, bigger and stronger and tougher than you, and the thing is all of this stuff misses the point.

The actual physical strength isn't what makes a character strong.

Someone who chooses to fight, even if they're at a massive disadvantage, is actually a lot braver and more compelling than some overpowered superhuman who dominates everything around them like in this scene, from Lord of the Rings, where eowin makes a stand against one of the most powerful and terrifying enemies in all of Middle Earth.

You can see how frightened and Tiny she is compared to him she's, basically, a fly that he could easily SWAT away, and the fact that she doesn't just break and run speaks volumes about her strength of character, which is a lot more important than the strength of her muscles.

The point I'm making here is that all of these attempts to push female characters as the physical equals of men comes across more like envious, wish, fulfillment or spiteful Revenge fantasies, rather than believable character, traits that fit naturally into a well-rounded story.

More often than not it's the writers pushing their own desires and personal ideology into the script, rather than trying to tell a compelling story that resonates with audiences.

Now, none of this is to say that it's impossible for a woman to beat a man in a fight.

Of course.

It is the differences between them.

Aren't that huge, but it has to be carefully thought out and implemented to make it look believable on screen.

Sarah Connor was an awesome Kick-Ass fighter in Terminator 2, but the film never tries to pretend that she's, bigger or stronger than the men around her.

Instead, she uses weapons, the environment, surprise, ambushes, threats and hostage taken to even the odds and it works.

You believe that she could actually accomplish the things she does and the natural result is that you buy into her character more one.

Other weird aspect of the strong female character is their General lack of human personality traits and redeeming qualities, instead of being altruistic or compassionate or protective or vulnerable or quirky they're, almost always written as stoic emotionally closed off blunt dismissive, prickly, domineering or aggressive the very same masculine traits that the writers seem to find so toxic and unacceptable in men.

They very rarely have any kind of romantic interest in men and are carefully written and dressed to avoid even the barest hint of sensuality or attractiveness either way.

It all just smacks of over compensation, a kind of knee-jerk reaction to all those overly emotional, easily frightened damsels in distress from previous generations of movies, a desire to break away from the tropes of women.

As caring compassionate maternal characters or overly sexualized fantasy figures, fair enough, there's absolutely nothing wrong with branching out and exploring different ideas.

The problem is that if you take all those feminine elements away and replace them with nothing but the most stereotypical of male traits, then all you really end up with.

Are women awkwardly pretending to be men like galadrio from rings of power, always trying to talk tough stamp down her Authority demand and respect and showing off? It doesn't ring true, because it's not how women tend to act in the real world.

Audiencies know it, and if Emily Blunt's comments are innocent to go by the actress he's trying to play these roles know it too again.

None of this is to say that you can't have assertive and authoritative female characters who speak their minds and fight their own corner, but you have to give them more than just the superficial facade of toughness just like her making them more physically powerful 4 diminishes their bravery and removing their challenges.

Weaknesses and failures eats away at their relatability, so removing their emotional complexity and vulnerability makes them less likable and the end result of all.

This is characters that are weirdly, Bland, sterile, sexless, emotionless, joyless, arrogant, condescending and unappealing.

People might not always be able to put into words what exactly is missing from them, but they know instinctively that what they're being shown just doesn't feel right and it doesn't connect with them, and the more Hollywood tries to force these characters on us.

The more people are rejecting them.

It's kind of ironic, when you think about it, that the strong female character should ultimately turn out to be their biggest weakness anyway.

That's all I've got for today go away now.


What is the problem with the strong female lead? ›

The problem with the “strong female lead” is that it's a caricature that aims to be progressive but ends up leaving characters neither strong nor feminine. “Those roles are written as incredibly stoic,” Blunt said in her interview. “You spend the whole time acting tough and saying tough things.”

What is the strong female character syndrome? ›

Named for Carrie-Anne Moss's character in The Matrix, the Trinity Syndrome describes the tendency to introduce a strong, capable woman with genuine potential as a character, only to fail her by giving her nothing to do — and usually, by reducing her to a trophy for a stronger man to claim as his reward.

Why is it important to have strong female characters in movies? ›

They can act as a role model for young girls and boys, showing that females can be strong and independent. Strong female characters in movies are also very important because it shows that women are not just limited to being mothers or wives, but they can do many other things.

What movies teach us strong female characters? ›

87 Fearless Women Movie Heroes Who Inspire Us
  • Alien (1979) 98% ...
  • Working Girl (1988) 83% ...
  • Thor: Ragnarok (2017) 93% ...
  • Black Panther (2018) 96% ...
  • Hidden Figures (2016) 93% ...
  • Mad Max: Fury Road (2015) 97% ...
  • Star Wars: The Last Jedi (2017) 91% ...
  • Star Wars: Episode VI - Return of the Jedi (1983) 83%
Feb 28, 2021

What is the disadvantage of female leader? ›

Gender biases and stereotyping work against professional women's leadership aspirations. Employers tend to interpret men's assertive behavior in the workplace as strong, commanding, and direct, but when women display the same assertiveness, their employers often see them as aggressive, pushy, and shrill.

Why are there so little female leaders? ›

Motherhood is one of the primary reasons women are held back from leadership roles. Many corporate leaders are prejudiced against women in the workplace because they view a woman as a potential setback.

Why are female stronger than male? ›

Women Have Stronger Aerobic Endurance Than Men

A study in the Journal of Applied Physiology, Nutrition, and Metabolism states that female athletes can soak up and process oxygen faster than men. While men are stronger when it comes to muscle strength, women are more powerful when it comes to endurance training.

Who has main character syndrome? ›

Someone who radiates the main character syndrome often thinks or sees themself as someone they imagine or want to be like, or is pretending to be the lead of their own story or self-created tale, according to Cynthia Catchings, a therapist for Talkspace.

What is the test for strong female characters? ›

The Bechdel test (/ˈbɛkdəl/ BEK-dəl), also known as the Bechdel-Wallace test, is a measure of the representation of women in film and other fiction. The test asks whether a work features at least two women who talk to each other about something other than a man.

What movie genre has the most female leads? ›

So, how have female movie leads evolved in comparison to male movie leads, if at all? We analyzed fifty box office hits per decade for seven decades (1950–2020) to find out. According to our findings, the movie genres that feature the most female-led movies are action, comedy, and drama.

Why do male players use female characters? ›

The researchers posit that some men may choose to play as a female because they find the characters more attractive when compared to male avatars.

What percentage of films have a female protagonist? ›

A new survey of the top 100 grossing domestic releases found that women only accounted for 33% of movie protagonists last year. That represented an infinitesimal two percentage point increase from 2021, according to the report by the Center for the Study of Women in Television and Film at San Diego State University.

What gender watches the most movies? ›

Frequency of going to the movies in the U.S. 2022, by gender

As of May 2022, almost half (46 percent) of male adults surveyed online in the United States said they went to the movies often or sometimes. Among women, the combined share stood at 37 percent.

Who was the first strong female lead in movies? ›

As Ripley in Alien (1979), Sigourney Weaver arguably birthed the female action hero.

Which leadership style is preferred by females? ›

Transformational – A number of studies have noted that women have a transformational style of leadership. “Transformational leaders establish themselves as role models by gaining followers' trust and confidence....

Does gender affect leadership style? ›

The impact of gender on leadership outcomes

female leaders are significantly more likely to use a democratic style of leadership. male leaders are significantly more likely to use more autocratic leadership styles.

How does patriarchy affect women's leadership? ›

This male-dominated situation is a direct effect of the patriarchal system. Thus, women are forced to follow the same traditional leadership style, even though their preferred style may be egalitarian (Smith, 2002), rather than autocratic.

Which gender has more leadership? ›

In studies that found a gender difference, women adopted participative styles of leadership and were more transformational leaders than men. Other studies find that no significant gender differences in leadership exist.

Are female leaders more emotional? ›

Women in top roles are often expected to be more emotionally available and more sensitive to others than men in similar roles.

Why are men more likely to be leaders? ›

For example, men tend to be more assertive and dominant, whereas women tend to be more communal, cooperative and nurturing. As a result, men are more likely to participate and voice their opinions during group discussions, and be perceived by others as leaderlike.

Which gender is smartest? ›

It is now recognized that there are no significant sex differences in general intelligence, though particular subtypes of intelligence vary somewhat between sexes. While some test batteries show slightly greater intelligence in males, others show slightly greater intelligence in females.

Which gender is more emotionally intelligent? ›

Indeed, research has shown that women often score higher on emotional intelligence or empathy tests than men, especially, but not only [10], if measured through self-reports, such as the Emotional Quotient Inventory (EQ-i [11]) the Empathy Quotient [12], the Interpersonal Reactivity Index (IRI) [13], or emotional ...

Which gender lives longer? ›

Among humans, women's life span is almost 8% on average longer than men's life span. But among wild mammals, females in 60% of the studied species have, on average, 18.6% longer lifespans.

What is Gen Z main character syndrome? ›

In a casual chat with Gen Zs, I learned about their love affair with themselves – what they call their “main character syndrome.” “It's all about you” is something we say to people who act like the universe revolves around them.

Is main character syndrome just narcissism? ›

According to Dr. Durvasula, even someone with the strongest main character energy can have caring characteristics and be empathic, largely safeguarding them from classic narcissistic behaviors (which, it's worth noting, can be less severe than clinical narcissism.)

What is first character syndrome? ›

People sometimes imagine themselves as the main character in a movie. Almost everyone has done this. The main character syndrome is when someone thinks that they are playing the lead role in a fictional version of their life, for example, as if they were in a movie.

Which gender is stronger in strength? ›

Women athletes are known to be less strong and powerful than equally trained men [1], muscle strength of women indeed, is typically reported in the range of 40 to 75% of that of men [2]; women are also known to be less powerful than equally trained men.

What is the female gaze for female characters? ›

The female gaze is a feminist theory term referring to the gaze of the female spectator, character or director of an artistic work, but more than the gender it is an issue of representing women as subjects having agency.

What is the female character rule? ›

To pass, films must have at least two (named) female characters who talk to each other about something other than men. It was developed by cartoonist Alison Bechdel in her comic strip Dykes to Watch Out For in 1985 and has been widely used as an indicator of gender bias, or lack thereof, in various media since then.

Who is considered the greatest female movie star of all time? ›

1 Katharine Hepburn

The African Queen star is the record-holder for the number of Academy Award wins for Best Actress, having claimed the prestigious gong on four separate occasions between 1934 and 1982, for Morning Glory, Guess Who's Coming to Dinner, The Lion in Winter, and On Golden Pond.

Who was known as the most beautiful woman in films? ›

Hedy Lamarr: The Most Beautiful Woman in Film (Screen Classics)

Who is considered the best female actor? ›

The List: Best Female Actors of All-Time, Per Experts
  • Ingrid Bergman. With her powerful performances and iconic roles, Ingrid Bergman deserves the number one spot. ...
  • Bette Davis. ...
  • Audrey Hepburn. ...
  • Meryl Streep. ...
  • Katharine Hepburn.
Mar 17, 2023

What is male having female characteristics called? ›

An androgynous person is an individual who has a high degree of both feminine (expressive) and masculine (instrumental) traits.

What do you call a male actor who played female roles? ›

Cross-gender acting refers to actors or actresses portraying a character of the opposite sex.

What is it called when a male plays a female role? ›

'Trouser role' is a theatrical term used to denote a role which is portrayed by a performer of the opposite sex.

Who is the most portrayed character in film? ›

Gandhi has appeared in more than 100 movies, while Christ and Lincoln have seen at least 350 and 250 movies respectively, if not more. The title for most portrayed character in popular films goes to Sherlock Holmes.

What are the statistics for sexism in Hollywood? ›

Sexism in Hollywood: Statistics Overview. The male to female ratio in Hollywood is 2.3 to 1 and actresses earn 24.8 cents for every dollar their male counterparts earn. This statistic demonstrates the prevalence of sexism in Hollywood, as it has not changed in over half a century.

Why is the film industry male dominated? ›

History in the Making

Male dominance of Hollywood productions solidified inadvertently in the 1930s through the implementation of Catholic morality on screen, which precipitously narrowed the scope of experiences and desires of women depicted in entertainment media for the ensuing decades.

What movies do female pretend to be male? ›

“Victor Victoria” (1982) Julia Andrews pretends to be a male female impersonator. Hilarity ensues. “Yentl” (1983) To get religious training, Barbra Streisand disguises herself as a boy. “Just One of the Guys” (1985) A goofy teen comedy where a female student pretends to be a guy for a newspaper article she's writing.

What ethnicity watches the most movies? ›

In 2021, approximately 54 percent of moviegoers in the United States and Canada identified as Caucasian and/or White. Viewers who identified as Hispanic and/or Latino accounted for 24 percent of the total.

Who is the strongest fictional character to ever exist? ›

The Presence (DC Comics)

As such, the Presence has had many names throughout DC's publication history, but his mythos has remained unchanged. He sits above all other pantheons and mystical entities, making him the most powerful fictional character in the entire universe.

Who is the strongest villain in all movies? ›

The debate about the best movie villains could go on forever, but here are the strongest ones ranked for your consideration.
  • 8 Kylo Ren.
  • 7 Loki.
  • 6 General Zod.
  • 5 Thanos.
  • 4 Darth Sidious.
  • 3 Darth Vader.
  • 2 Lord Voldemort.
  • 1 Sauron.
7 days ago

Who is the most powerful character than one above all? ›

The Beyonder and the One-Above-All are godlike beings in the Marvel Universe, but one is definitely a more supreme being. The Beyonder and the One-Above-All both have a decent claim to being the most powerful character in the Marvel Universe.

Why are strong female characters important? ›

They can act as a role model for young girls and boys, showing that females can be strong and independent. Strong female characters in movies are also very important because it shows that women are not just limited to being mothers or wives, but they can do many other things.

What are characteristics of a strong woman? ›

These traits include being self confident, productive, optimistic, a go-getter, a fear-tackler, caring, unafraid to stand up for what one believes in, proud, unbothered by what others say or think, and true to one's self.

What is the strong female character trope? ›

The Strong Female Character trope usually requires the main female character to take on more masculine traits and reject more feminine traits. This method allowed me to see what words are being used to describe the female main characters and their stories.

How effective is female leadership? ›

Research from Leadership Circle, based on assessments with over 84,000+ leaders and 1.5 million raters (comprising boss, boss's boss, peers, direct reports, and others), shows that female leaders show up more effectively than their male counterparts across every management level and age level.

What is different about female leadership? ›

Women tend to have a more cooperative, participatory style of leading. Men tend to have a more “command and control style,” according to the American Psychological Association. They're more task-oriented and directive, while women are more democratic.

What is the glass cliff phenomenon? ›

What is the glass cliff? The glass cliff refers to the phenomenon whereby women (and members of other minority groups, such as those based on race or disability) are over-represented in leadership positions that are risky and precarious – think UK Prime Minister Teresa May and Brexit.

What makes a woman a woman? ›

A man or a woman is simply one who possesses male or female chromosomes and (except in rare cases) the corresponding sex organs.

What does female leadership look like? ›

Horizontal leadership: Female leadership is inclusive, encourages participation and shares information and power with those she leads. She tends to create and strengthen group identities. Emotional prevalence: They are generally capable of considering the “human” side of individuals and generate high levels of empathy.

How does a man's thinking differ from that of a woman? ›

Men tend to be more aggressive and outperform women on mental tasks involving spatial skills such as mental rotation, whereas women tend to be more empathetic and perform better on verbal memory and language tasks.

What do you think is the most significant barriers to female leadership? ›

Lack of Flexibility

Balancing work and family can be a challenge that limits women from seeking leadership roles.

What do you think is the most significant barrier to female empowerment? ›

One of the biggest barriers in women empowerment is the general mindset of our society, according to which women are expected to take care of their family and household chores.

What is an example of male dominance in society? ›

For example, men can sexually harass women when they are overly exuberant in pursuing sexual self-interest at work, or they feel entitled to treat women as sex-objects, or when they feel superior to women and express their superiority by berating and belittling the female sex.

What is the term for overpowered female characters? ›

A 'strong female character' has become a catch-all term. In action and thrillers she is the leather clad bad-ass or the femme fatale, in dramas she is any character in a traditionally male role or a woman with some autonomy.

Why do authors use strong female characters? ›

Some believe it describes characters with powerful physical abilities, such as those of Buffy Summers or Katniss Everdeen. Others believe it to represent the quality of a character's "inner life" and their relative importance in the story.

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