Raya, Captain Marvel, Katniss Everdeen, Trinity, and GIRL POWER

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.

Scarlett Johansson Film GIF - Find & Share on GIPHY

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…

Disney Movie Raya GIF by Walt Disney Studios - Find & Share on GIPHY

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.

Captain Marvel GIF by Marvel Studios - Find & Share on GIPHY

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.

Jennifer Lawrence Aim GIF by The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 2 - Find & Share on GIPHY

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!”

Ready To Fight The Matrix GIF by HBO Max - Find & Share on GIPHY

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?

Photo by cottonbro on Pexels.com

©2021 Chelsea Owens

66 thoughts on “Raya, Captain Marvel, Katniss Everdeen, Trinity, and GIRL POWER

  1. Points well made. All I can say is ANYTHING DC/Marvel fantasy/farce/franchise is not gonna get used as a guide-stick for any form of behaviour that is vaguely close to any earthly reality.

    Liked by 1 person

        1. I’m willing to suspend disbelief if they aren’t over-super-powered… I do think they should bring the muscle down just a titch if they want me to believe that Black Widow can actually incapacitate those brutes.

          Liked by 1 person

  2. Before she was Katniss, Jennifer Lawrence was Ree….another great film character…love your thinking about what a woman should aspire to be..I wish I could arrange flowers..well just a bit …sigh Have a fabuous weekend, Chel x

    Liked by 2 people

  3. I’m more of a Helen Keller fan: real people overcoming real hindrances with amazing and inspiring results. Then again Gal Godot is awesome as Wonder Woman. She’s got skills and a heart of gold. She’s tough but vulnerable.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I’m the real world, my heroes are people like you, Pam. 🙂 I’ll get there eventually.

      Your point about Wonder Woman is good; the portrayal of power is important.

      Good luck today (right now, I think)! 📖

      Liked by 1 person

  4. I had this conversation with a fellow writer a few years ago, Chelsea. She was trying to write a “strong female lead character” and what she did (in my opinion) was write a male character with a female name. The character had no emotional depth because, in her opinion, this is a sign of weakness in a male-dominated world. True… but… I had a problem with buying into that bias, which isn’t even true anyway. I like strong female leads who are emotionally engaged and understand the broader cost of their choices, like Katniss. Female characters that just act like men are missing out on a woman’s emotional vulnerability, and as a consequence, her strength to prevail and maintain her humanity. Just my two cents!

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Thank you! (And, of course, written better than my rant!)

      I just re-read Hunger Games and appreciated Katniss’ character more. She’s rather emotionless and calculating, but still feminine. It’s not like she blows up a camp and bursts into a sobbing fit; in fact, I just realized that Suzanne Collins shows that Katniss emotionally distances herself from attachments across the board, which explains her inability to truly show love for the two boys.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. But she sacrifices herself for her sister and has a moral code that includes compassion. Those “feminine” qualities cause a lot of problems for her but make her a courageous and compelling character. 🙂

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  5. Well said, Chel! I loved Trinity too, along with older real females such as Sigourney Weaver in the first 3 Alien movies, Linda Hamilton in the first two Terminator movies, Jamie Lee Curtis in…gah the funny one with Arnie. For my money, the reason why I love all those roles is because we women were given credit for the things that are our real super power – nurturing and protecting those who need protecting. Women can lift cars if there’s a kid trapped underneath. And as a general rule, we don’t kill people either.

    Women don’t need man-powers, we need to have our woman-powers recognized and respected.
    Ahem. Go girl. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  6. I think you’re pointing out the “man with boobs” problem. I think part of it is that we’ve defined strength by masculinity to the point that they are almost equal. To be strong, then, many people write their “female” character as super masculine.

    I think the best female lead I’ve ever watched or read was Scarlett O’Hara in Gone With The Wind. She’s powerful, emotional, and feminine without sacrificing anything (well, ok, maybe some morals). I get that much of the story is unpalatable due to egregious racism, though.

    At the same time, are the mLe leads in Marvel tripe believable? Like, not a single one of them is catatonic from PTSD. They’re dad joke machines and their characters are one-dimensional. (that said, I only got up to halfway through Winter Soldier, then watched “Ragnarok” because I have Thor friends and mistakenly viewed “Captain Marvel” because I liked “Wonder Woman”). I’m not sure superhero movies are in the least literarily sound, haha.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. What’s funny about the man with boobs is that they are clearly still flaunting those boobs. It’s just fine to be men but also just fine to use sex to get their way?? Do the men walk around with low-cut pants? We.

      Scarlett O’Hara is another great heroine. I agree. I also agree about the super-powered Marvel characters; I believe they didn’t simply crash and burn because Robert Downey, jr. came back to acting with such depth and dark humor I can’t help but love all of his current roles.

      Liked by 1 person

  7. I loved your thoughts on this. Captain Marvel left me with a funny aftertaste too. After reading what you wrote, you gave me the words for my feelings. I loved how you pulled these characters together and valued their humanity. Amen. And your closing line was powerful and so awesome!

    Liked by 1 person

  8. How interesting that you are worrying about believable super heroes! What’s believable about Superman? Spider-Man? The Flash? No boy ever really thought he could fly. Make superheroes didn’t negatively affect our boys. I grew up in a time when girls did NOT have any female superheroes. I watched tv and saw Lois Lane on a black snd white tv . She had a brain but Superman had to continually save her because even though she was smart, she wasn’t strong! She was always in trouble. Tarzan always saved Jane. In fact, ALL the women were helpless. I grew up watching a host of ridiculous female wimps!
    What was realistic about Barbie? She had a body that no girl could ever grow into without surgery. Luckily Annie Oakley had a Tv show in the 50’s. At least she could shoot a gun snd defend off the bad guys. She didn’t need a man to protect her. But pretty much the women who helped fight for female equality were girls from my generation and those who preceded me. We had no female superheroes. So watching unrealistic girl power is a problem now? Superheroes aren’t real. That’s why they are super. At least it drives home the idea that girls can grow up to do whatever they choose to do without needing to be saved. I had three choices. Well four if you add Mom. I could teach, I could be a nurse, or a secretary. If you were tall snd pretty you might be picked to be a stewardess.
    I thankfully related to jo March in Little Women who had a sense of out of the box thinking. And Elizabeth Bennett let me know I didn’t have to settle in love. But growing up I had no super girls to look up to. Just fairy godmothers and pumpkins.
    My mother dragged me inside if I ran faster than my brother and his friends, or could dunk more baskets . I wanted to be like Superman and fly. But there weren’t any superheroes for little girls. Ok…Florence Nightingale and Madam Curie. Golda Meyer.
    Your youth and growing up was in a time where girls had rights. And has given you the right to be picky about female superheroes. Trust me, you wouldn’t want to go back in time. I grew up thinking I needed to look like Marilyn Monroe, Barbie, or Rosalind Russel. Unrealistic women! With pointy breasts, tiny waists and skirts too tight to walk in. And movies showed men hitting women as being acceptable. Yeah, cuz men knew better, were smarter or stronger. THAT is what day time tv was for kids. And cartoons? All the princesses needed to be saved by a prince. How realistic was that?
    And What is feminine anyway? In my youth it was ridiculous unachievable body images. Is that better?
    Be happy that finally our little girls have choices. My grand daughter cried because none of the Disney princesses had curls like her. Our girls need to think they have super powers when they play. Imagination enlightens the mind. It’s not supposed to be realistic. Spaceships were science fiction once upon a time too. Let girls have some dreams. And don’t impose your vision of femininity on another. Unless you want your daughter in laws to look like Barbie.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Totally the times I tell my husband about, since he’s a victim of Present Day History in a lot of categories! I tell him that women were *told* they could not go to certain places or were physically banned from occupations or environments. Don’t worry, Lesley: I may not be able to grow up during your era, but I know of it. I would’ve hated living then.

      I agree that more female exposure is great. There are many benefits these days – almost all the benefits. I can attend any school. Work any place. Raise alarms that will be heard if I’m not allowed to do what a man may do.

      Without the space, current clarity of thinking, or ability to put my finger on precisely what the issue is; I wrote this lament of overpowered women. (And, yes, I would’ve written about The Flash, Superman, etc. had those movies come out now. It’s not just The Women Issue; it’s depth of character.) The superpowers underline what I can’t quite define because they highlight a few areas in concerned about: erasing femininity (and, what *is* that anymore?), enhancing physical abilities beyond any males’, and -sad to say- *still* teaching women that they must look like Barbie.

      …. which is another side issue. No matter our strides in history, we are still propagating unrealistic body image ideals. Given your examples, it happens for both males and females. Given my experiences and observations, it happens much more for females because so much depends on our sex appeal.

      Anyway, thanks for the insight. Let’s hope writers and producers keep trying. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Well that is true. We show unrealistic body types to the extreme. My son worked on a couple of the Ironman movies. The costume was light as a feather and plastic but looked like it could withstand anything. Costumes make both male and females look unrealistic. We do need to address three dimensional characters who have depth and are more than their attributes. I loved the first Wonder Woman for that reason. She was powerful but her love of humankind was the underlying theme. I do agree that we need a balance. I am just so happy that finally girls have some role models. When my friends and I formed the first all girls rock band in south Fl (1966) we just wanted to make music. The local papers made such an big deal about us being girls. We designed cute costumes but wore pants because we didn’t want anyone looking up our dresses on stage. as girls we always have more to worry about. That’s just how it is. And we didn’t want to look too sexy. We wanted to be cute teenagers, but taken seriously. And not capitalize on our looks. There were managers who wanted us to promote being sexy. We were 16! It was always a slippery slope bring female. So we wore a black turtleneck top snd black slacks and a bright yellow vest. And we all had bangs! Very 1960’s. But we really shouldn’t have had to worry about that.

        Liked by 1 person

  9. Oh I’m SO with you. I absolutely HATED captain Marvel. She doesn’t even make sense. Nothing relatable about her.

    I’m reading “seven Women” by Eric Mataxas right now. I’ve got to say, those are my types of hero’s: Joan of Arc, Rosa Parks, Hannah More, Corrie Ten Boom, Saint Maria of Paris (a divorced nun who smoked and drank! Lol!).

    They were not amazing in spite of their womanhood, but BECAUSE of it. I think our world needs to get back to reality that while it’s fun to see Black Widow kick butt, a woman of her size is not an equal match fighting against a man.

    I’m with you on Katniss Everdeen. Probably one of my favourite female leads ever. However, it was her tender and almost Motherly care for Primerose and Rue that made her so likeable to me.

    Liked by 1 person

      1. I will add that if you do decide to read the book, I wasn’t a fan of Susanna Wesley for some reason. The book was recommended to me because of her story but it ended up being my least favorite of the seven!

        Liked by 1 person

  10. I had intended to add something to my previous comment re how you are outnumbered by males in your household and wondering how that felt. What you’ve said here just makes me more curious about how the male-female imbalance looks there where you are. Do you ever discuss any or all of the male side (or view or stereotypes) of the female characteristics you talk about here? Maybe that train of thought would be a good one to pursue if you have time or clarity amongst all the impending chaos this summer.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. An excellent idea! I had great ideals for how I’d raise a daughter and feel a bit conflicted watching some of the pro-female practices of late – mostly, I feel, when males are attacked…

      Which is my male side issue, and not one portrayed as much in film besides showing females kicking butt. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  11. My two cents:

    #1 – As, an um…less manly man one might say, I look at Chris Hemsworth as Thor or Henry Cavill as Superman and think, “Wow. I wish I’d hit the gym more. How can I compete with this?” As a kid I wanted to be like, who were the 80s tough guys? Stallone and Schwarzenegger? I loved them but then as an adult…you don’t have 8 hours a day to devote to the gym, you don’t have as much incentive to drop the pizza and pick up the celery….I’ll admit Marvel balances things out with some less than perfect male heroes like Ant Man and Spiderman who bungle their way to success despite nervousness, geekery and all around incompetence in wielding their powers. There doesn’t seem to be an equally inept female hero…i.e. men wish they were Thor but can’t but they can’t be him so they can look up to Spiderman and Ant Man. I vaguely remember Buffy had some less than competent moments but still persevered. It would probably be good if there were a similar female hero who keeps getting up despite screwing up as regular people do.

    #2 – Captain Marvel suffers from “Too Perfect Syndrome” just as Superman does. There’s not a lot to relate to when someone is perfect at everything. For example, Thor might look perfect, but his ego and arrogance often are his downfall. The first two 1970s Superman movies are great because the writers remembered that Clark is a real person. He’s nerdy and inept and has a hard time talking to people and has to put on a costume and take on a whole other persona just to fight bad guys as Supes. Though funny that Lois can’t tell the difference between Superman and Clark because of a pair of glasses, the idea was they have such differing personalities…Superman so confident, Clark so wimpy…maybe most people are Clark on the inside and when you go out and do your job you have to put on a costume and fake your confidence, almost as if you are an actor pretending to be something you are not.

    Unfortunately, in modern movies, they portray Clark as equally tough and the movies lose something. The 70s films got that Superman, despite his tough exterior, was on the inside, a wimp like the rest of us, scared of screwing up and ruining it all.

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    1. #1 is most excellent! Perfect!

      #2 Equally good thoughts. I agree.

      I actually thought about you and your reviews the whole time I wrote this. 😀 Not everyone is critical in his reviews!

      I think you’d agree that, therfore, Robert Downey’s portrayal is excellent because he brings so much reality to a ridiculous universe.

      Like

      1. Yes, well Robert Downey was/is a real life Tony Stark. RD was rich and successful and at the top of his game, but suffered from alcohol addiction and ended up falling from grace when he got too drunk one night, accidentally wandered into a neighbor’s house and went to sleep in their bed because he thought it was his house and had to go to rehab. Iron Man resurrected his career.

        Similarly, Stark is rich and successful but suffers from cockiness in that he often goes too far because he believes he will always be able to bail himself out with money. In the comics he was a big time alcoholic, less so in the movies though they generally portrayed him as a degenerate party boy, like in real life. But over the course of the movies he becomes more and more self-less, to the point where he realizes he’s better off if he just gives up the party lifestyle and commits to Pepper Potts.

        On another note, getting to the whole crux of your post – I often hear the argument that it is silly, the idea that a 5 foot tall woman could take down a 6 foot, 200 something pound man with a well placed kick…but then I remember the things that men do in these films are equally silly and unlikely, so why can’t everyone have a chance to do equally silly, unlikely things?

        I think Game of Thrones was about as realistic as all this nonsense gets. There, everyone had their strengths and weaknesses, both physical and mental and characters rose and fell based on them. For example, you had Brienne of Tarth, who was tall and physically strong and jacked, mocked her whole life for a lack of femininity, mocked as not being fit for being a knight despite being good at knighting, knightery? There is a 20 minute fight scene where she takes on an evil knight called The Hound and you can munch popcorn to it because they are equally matched and it looks like it could be anyone’s game, either could come out as the victor at any moment. At the end of it, they are both physically messed up and near death and it isn’t one of these comic book things where like the hero/heroine just gives one punch and the bad guy is incapacitated in a flawless takedown.

        I fear cancellation by saying this but I have noticed in a lot of TV/movies as of late, “woke-ism” is kind of overtaking plot. I’ll be watching and suddenly a SWAT team full of 5 foot tall women in body armor will show up and be like, “OK we’re here to save the day” and it’s just…OK look, I get it. These movies all require disbelief. It’s equally silly that a six foot tall man is going to knock out twenty bad guys in one punch…but you do need some kind of backstory to help us suspend disbelief. Do I really think Scar Jo could take on 100 bad guys in real life and win? No, but Marvel has built up Black Widow as Russia’s greatest assassin defected to America, so in this unlikely world, there’s at least a hook to hang your suspension of disbelief coat on. Jacked as Chris Hemsworth is, I don’t think in real life he could fight 20 bad guys and win either, but in the movies, he’s presented as the mythical God of Thunder, so we have a reason to suspend disbelief.

        I’m rambling now, but ultimately I think GOT was best at this. There were male characters who were big strong knights who got by on their physical strength. But then you had male characters like Littlefinger who weren’t physically strong, so they got by on scheming and tricks. You had a female character like Brienne who had the physical strength, or you had Lady Olenna, who got by on scheming and tricks. Basically, it was like real life. If you don’t have the physical strength to defeat your opponent through punches and kicks, then you have to compensate with brain power and take them out with scheming and tricks.

        In conclusion, the character can be a 5 foot tall, 100 something pound man or a woman, or a 6 foot tall, 200 something pound man or woman, they can be three feet tall, they can be in a wheel chair…doesn’t really matter, you just need the hook, the explanation as to why they are able to kick so much butt.

        Liked by 1 person

        1. Agreed, agreed, agreed – although, I can’t stand to watch GoT, unfortunately.

          I love the true dynamics of the old DND systems: a magic-user, a tank, a tracker, a thief. Sometimes one crossed into another class, but with limitations like fewer spells. Sure, everyone wants to have brains, brawn, charisma, and street smarts. Is that possible? Not really. A brilliant savant is often physically or socially weak. A bruiser often barely rubs 2 and 2 together and comes up with 4…

          I like your nod to at least attempting a backstory explanation for Black Widow, but she is still overpowered.

          You’ll get canceled anyway in today’s world; but, yes, the influx and accent on woman power is what set me off ranting in the first place.

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