Saturday, February 23, 2013

Strong Women in the Media

**Beware, spoilers below for anyone who hasn't seen Avengers (and if you haven't you better go see it right this instant) and Hunger Games**

Ever since we watched Miss Representation in class, I have been paying closer attention to the roles of female characters in media. As I write this, I am watching The Avengers. In one scene, Black Widow confronts Loki in his cell on the air ship. If you know the part I'm talking about, you remember Loki's little speech to her about how she's trying to save Hawkeye because she's supposedly in love with him. We think he's gotten to her when she turns around and sounds like she's crying until Loki reveals his secret about the Hulk. Suddenly, she turns around, hearing that the Hulk is part of his plan, thanks Loki for his cooperation, and repeats this new information to Nick Fury. (click here to see clip)

My point here is: she uses his stereotype to her advantage. She's a major character in this film who can stand on her own and kick butt. This character was just as strong in the last Iron Man movie when she takes out several guys while Jon Faverau's character is still working on the first one. (click here to see clip)

Obviously, Hunger Games is another book/movie with a strong, independent female lead who ends up saving the guy and surviving the Games. Some TV shows are getting there, now, too. Last week, an episode of one of my favorite shows, Person of Interest, debuted the abilities of a new female character they are setting up to be an important part of the Reese/Finch team to save lives and prevent crime before it happens.

I'm just curious what other shows, movies, and/or books you guys have seen in which women are more than just a "damsel in distress." Has anyone else been paying attention to this subject since we saw the documentary?


  1. I've been on the lookout for movies that have strong female characters also since Miss representation. I agree with your opinion that Katniss is a strong female character and that the Black Widow is as well, but (playing the devil's advocate) I think the Black Widow can be seen as overly sexualized in her skin tight black jumpsuit and I wonder why there are so many male protagonists in the movie and only two females.

    One example of a strong female that I noticed was in the new movie, Beautiful Creatures. Lena, is a witch and has much more power than her boyfriend, Ethan. Ethan really has no power, which seemed strange to me when I watched the movie. Of course, It doesn't seem strange to me when the man has all the power.

  2. Eowyn from The Lord of the Rings came to my mind. Without going too far into detail (because nobody wants that), Eowyn ultimately asserts herself on the battlefield despite protests from men claiming that it is no place for a woman. She also takes out the Witch-king, so she gets bonus points for that. But yeah, to further address your post, I can't say that I've been on the lookout for more powerful female characters for one reason or another, nor do I tend to take note of them anymore than a powerful male character. But if enough consumers begin advocating for stronger female roles with enough intensity, I can't help but believe that moviemakers will follow suite.

  3. Oh Eowyn is awesome and definitely comes to my mind as well when I think of strong female characters. I recently started watching Game of Thrones, which I love and highly recommend and think that there are a lot of strong female characters in that show as well. The character, Daenerys Targaryen is a very passionate ruler and is the mother of dragons. She is trying to become the Queen of the Iron Throne and the ruler of the Seven Kingdoms. Then there is the character, young Arya Stark, who is an intelligent and witty girl who can fight better than most of the boys around her. And there is also Cersei Lannister, and although she plays a villan, she is also strong and cunning. There are many other strong female characters like this in the show, but didn't mention them because everybody should watch it for themselves!

  4. Game of Thrones also came to my mind when thinking of strong female characters in film and TV. Not only are many of the female characters in the show powerful (although not all of them are), but they are also deep and complex. However, over all, the show also depends heavily on sex appeal, and there is a lot more sex than in the books. It makes me wonder if the show would be as popular if there was less sex. Don't get me wrong though, I adore GoT and the book series A Song of Ice and Fire, and I recommend them both (I would read the books first).

    Million Dollar Baby is an excellent movie with a great female lead, as are the Kill Bill movies, and The Silence of the Lambs.

  5. I agree with your thoughts on Black Widow and Katniss. I think an issue with strong female roles a lot in our movies, as others have pointed out, is that there is still a very sexualized image to these women.

    For example, Anne Hathaway as Catwoman in the final Batman movie was independent and strong, while her outfit was like Black Widow's. Another movie I could think of was the change in Keira Knightley's character in the Pirates of the Caribbean movies. Granted in the first two she's a damsel in distress, but then she becomes a leading captain in the third.

    On TV, I think of shows like Castle. Kate Beckett, played by Stana Katic, is a homicide detective, always the first to take risks to solve a case. She leads the men of her team, and even the captain of the precint is a woman in the newer seasons of the show.

    I think there will still be issues of women's image in the media, but I see a positive direction with the roles that people have brought up.

  6. I know that even before we watched Miss Representation I noticed more female protagonists were not viewed/written as they used to be, i.e. the “damsels in distress”. Females are becoming more like their male counterparts (all the good and bad) in movies and use the stereotypes that men associate with women as you said (or implied). I think this is a good thing because then the females become more relatable or they become someone who females can be like, “She is so badass. I wish I was just like her.” One thing I like in Young Adult literature is the fact that there are many female protagonists that are available to young girls that can be characters for these girls to look up to. (I went a lot into this with the blog post I created a few weeks ago—I believe.) I guess to sum it up I like how these females are like onions, as Shrek has said before (about ogres but the same applies). They have many layers to their characters that a female can attach to herself.

    If anyone wants recommendations for books (of the YA genre because that is what I read mostly) that I think has strong female characters, just ask. I love talking about books with people. And I will give you my first recommendation: Divergent by Veronica Roth. (It is soon being made into a movie that will be released next year.)

  7. I don't watch too much television, but there are a few examples of female protagonists in video games that are moving away from the over-sexualized ogle dolls that they've been portrayed as in the past. The latest character that comes to mind is the revamped Lara Croft from the game "Tomb Raider." Lara starts off as a vulnerable and inexperienced adventurer, succumbing to traps, learning to survive in the wild, and taking a life to preserve her own. As the game progresses, she becomes as much of a badass as any male character ever has been.