I’m about as pro-female as the next woman. I want to be judged based on intelligence and ability, know that being female does not make me automatically enjoy flower-arranging, and get excited whenever Natasha Romanova takes out another bodyguard with her sweet moves.
Still, all this pro-woman stuff is starting to bother me. It’s the super- superpowers that’s the problem. It’s the lack of female characteristics. It’s …it’s …difficult to put my finger on, especially in a high-strung world that seems determined to erase any gender lines ENTIRELY.
Take Raya, the lead character in Disney’s Raya and the Last Dragon. I wanted to like her. She’s determined, honest, has a worthy cause she’s fighting for, and is not naïve. But she really bugged me. First, the voice actor sounds 40 even when Raya is a young child. Her voice is old and her language is old. I get that Raya is supposed to be precocious. She is not, however, supposed to be 40. Nor is the chick she spends time with from the Fang Clan. Both of them needed to be young-ified.
….Okay; really, the voice and vocabulary are my #1 complaint.
After that, I am bothered, as I usually am in movies with female leads, that she does not have to pull her hair back, have downtime once a month, or hurt her hand when punching a rock…
Next up is Captain Marvel.
Woo-wee. Where to start? How about the fact that she is even more powerful than Superman? Again, I wanted to like her. She can do anything even though she’s a chick, so that means we women can do anything too -right? (granted, that’s if we first absorb the energy of an alien power source…).
I can’t like her. I can’t believe her. The film kept trying to show that her ‘weakness’ was not being confident. Thank you, Marvel writers, for showing me that all I need is limitless abilities (including not being crushed in the vacuum of space) to get over my crushing self-doubts and alien-installed dampener on my neck.
Do you see what I mean? I recognize my concerns and begin to understand when I compare women like Raya or Cpt. Marvel to female leads I do like.
Like, Katniss Everdeen, from The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins. Katniss is sixteen, independent, and not very touchy-feely. Her superpower? Archery. Oh, and good survivalist instincts and knowledge.
Katniss is godlike in shooting arrows, described in Mockingjay as being able to bullseye multiple targets thrown into the air. She’s also able to recognize edible plants, find water, start fires, and kill children…. The only part of her character that irks me is her naivety to plans going on right under her nose –but, wouldn’t a sixteen-year-old be oblivious?
I love that Katniss’ instinct is to run and hide, sniveling, when danger rears its ugly head. She’s calculating, yet cares deeply. She’s human -a teenage human.
Another of the female powerhouses I love is Trinity from The Matrix film series.
Cool, powerful, strong, independent. Trinity makes everything looks awesome. Yet, she is also terrified. At times, she is vulnerable. My favorite, favorite scene is when she is lying on the ground, guns drawn, after flying through a window. She’s just run across rooftops after wiping out an entire police force and expects an Agent to break through and annihilate her at any second. Pistols pointed at the broken window, she grits her teeth and tells herself, “Get up, Trinity. Get. UP!”
Why do some women leads bother me and others not? I think everyone is confused about what Girl Power means.
I’m a woman. I’m female. I grew up seeing girls choose dolls and friends; hearing girls talk about fingernail polish and cute boys; smelling girls spray fruity vanilla scents on each other and worrying over their hair. Even as a woman, I notice most other XX’s fretting at house decorating or “The Bachelor” or botox.
Me? I had Barbies with superpowers who went on adventures. I chewed my nails and thought boys were disgusting. I think ‘doing my hair’ is pulling it back in a ponytail. I wouldn’t be caught dead watching something as stupid as fake-dating for a supposed millionaire.
I want girls to be anything.
Buuuut, I also know that females have many physiological differences. They seem to gravitate toward certain tastes. Many share attributes like being nurturing, good at communicating, and -yes- arranging flowers well. Quite obviously, they are also the only ones able to make babies.
As we’ve emerged from a long history of mostly baby-making out into the limelight of higher education, politics, and management; we’re not sure what to do. We’re not sure what to encourage. Women who’ve obviously chosen home life are raising their daughters to choose the opposite. Petite movie directors and writers make their characters sound middle-aged, fly to other worlds, win in a deathmatch, and stand up to beefy-armed hirelings.
I guess that sells better than The Old Woman Who Lived in a Shoe.
What to do, then; what to do…
Here’s a simple takeaway: keep female characters believable. Keep them as good, reachable role models. Why do I hate Captain Marvel? No weakness; no humanity at all. Why do I love Katniss? Her go-to is to hide when things get difficult; to act irrationally. Why do I prefer Disney’s Moana over Raya? Practical physical limitations and age-appropriate behaviors. Why do I favor Trinity, even though she pushes some realism? Because she shows fear, uncertainty, jealousy, and deep emotion.
Women are complicated. Don’t make us impossible as well. Right?
©2021 Chelsea Owens