There has been lots of chatter recently about the need for strong female characters. The idea of a damsel in distress needing some guy to save her (think Lois Lane) is no longer thought to be the best type of heroine.
Okay, I have to agree there. No strong minded, independent young lady says I want to be Lois Lane when I grow up. Or better yet – no girl wants to be that chick that gets tied to the train tracks by the masked villain sporting a foot long mustache and a cloak.
The damsel in distress is the antithesis of a strong female character. If a hero is required to save the chick, she’s considered weak.
So what is a strong female character? I’ve read all sorts of stuff, including some amusing flow charts, about strong female characters. Generally speaking, a strong girl is someone who can take care of herself and is flawed.
One of the most striking articles I came across was how Hollywood perceived the need for strong women. They responded by making GI Jane and other ass-kickers, assuming that making a masculine woman is what it meant to be strong – and what we wanted. Yeah, um – not so much. That lost most of it’s realism as most women don’t want to be navy seals, shave their heads, or be masculine buff and totally man-like.
Um, might I suggest that most woman want some curves, and to retain their feminine attributes? And be strong the way they are? That idea still seems to be out there. So let’s put off my crazy suggestions and first see what characters are generally agreed upon as being strong female characters.
Two strong female characters that come up over and over again are Princess Lea (Star Wars) and Elizabeth Swan (Pirates of the Caribbean). They are still feminine, but they have an ability to take care of themselves. They can handle guns, run through sewers, and swing a sword. They don’t run screaming from the action, waiting for tall-dark-n-handsome to rescue them – they jump in defending the things they care about.
Yup, I know what you’re thinking. The Phantom kidnaps her three times, and Raoul is trying to save her through 2/3 of the show. She even has the look that suggests we just tie her to the train tracks, and see who will show up to save her.
There is no question, no lurking suspicion, that suggests that she might secretly harbor ninja skills, or suddenly shave her head and blow up the theater.
No, her character is more refined. She embodies a feminine character with real flaws and weaknesses – but she also possesses great strength.
Due to Raoul’s (her fiance) crappy plan to save her , Christine is kidnapped by the Phantom and whisked away before anyone can do anything. He takes her below the theater, holding her there. In the past, Christine had felt compassion for the tormented Phantom, but she’s pissed after he crashes the chandelier and kills a bunch of people. She doesn’t hold back her thoughts, she tells him that he’s twisted, and that she hates him. Okay, that was slightly brave, not sugar coating things when a nut has you locked in a sewer, waiting to kill you – or worse. That took guts.
Now Raoul shows up, trying to save the day again – the doof – and it’s clear that he is really the damsel in distress. Frail Christine looks at her knight in shining armor as he’s strung up and the phantom is ready to hang her true love. Raul says sorry, and has to wait for someone to untie him (note: there are no train tracks, but an iron grate is close enough).
If Christine chooses the Phantom, he will free Raul. If she doesn’t, the Phantom will kill him. It looks like a no win situation for her.
Ninja skills would have been valuable, but she’s a ballerina – what can a ballerina do?
Only the bravest thing possible. She does not verbally choose, but walks to the Phantom (in the sewer), strokes his scarred face, and kisses him.
You might be thinking so what? Think it through a little bit more. First, she thought the Phantom was a ghost, then realized he was real, then realized he was killing people so she could sing, then he kidnapped her, tried to kill Raoul, and the list keeps going. He’s totally unpredictable and unstable. She kisses the kidnapper, killer, psychotic lunatic that has her lover in a noose. That took guts.
And the thing that saved them wasn’t a masculine skill or physical strength – it was compassion – compassion for someone who didn’t deserve it.
That makes her one of the strongest female characters in my book, because she didn’t betray who she was. She overcame her fear, dealt with her tormented past, and released the ghosts that haunted her to protect the ones she loved.
Christine Daae is not a ninja, but she totally kicks ass as a strong female character.