This morning I was watching a movie review for Insurgent. I was interested in it as I saw the Divergent, the first movie in the science fiction series, and I wondered what the next film would hold in terms of plot and character advancement. The reviewer said that actress Shailene Woodley’s character Beatrice Prior was a great strong female character. I was troubled by the phrase “strong female character,” and my uneasy feelings led me to ponder whether the phrase “strong female character” in movies should be retired?
What exactly made me uneasy took some time for me to figure out. Then I realized that it is because a movie with a man in the lead role isn’t likely to be described as having a strong male character. So why point it out for a woman like Beatrice, played by Shailene Woodley?
Perhaps it is mentioned for females because it is seen as being uncharacteristic of our nature. That would be to say that women are not normally powerful but instead more subdued in personality. Well, I can kick that stereotype where the sun doesn’t shine. I know many strong women; two that come to my mind right away are my mom and my friend Melissa.
As an additional point, I would not say that a strong female character, if we must keep that phrase in the dictionary (though I argue it can be retired without the world ending), isn’t one that is synonymous with being cold or mean. Hear my feminist words roar! A woman can be both strong and empathetic; those qualities are not mutually exclusive. The layers of a woman are many; the layers of a woman are beautiful.
If the phrase “strong female character” were removed from movie reviews and in general from the film industry, my hope would be that it would help reduce stereotypes of women. Perhaps men and women could be looked at on more of a level playing field. I know it is movie characters we are discussing here, but many people really do escape into films as they watch them and internalize the messages they see over the course of the two-hour film.
What are your thoughts on the phrase “strong female character” in movies such as Insurgent? Would retiring the phrase be a positive move?
©2015 Christy Birmingham