Tag Archives: Dexter

“Strong Female Characters”? No thanks.

NewStatesman piece is going around this week called “I Hate Strong Female Characters,” and it’s actually pretty good. Sophia McDougall makes the not-new but needs-repeating argument that we conflate the presence of “strong female characters” in our media with equality. She points out that a) implying strength as an unusual asset for female characters is belittling (would we crow about a film with strong male characters? HAH) and that b) boxing female characters into narrow tropes of success (she can roundhouse kick!) reduces human complexity and replaces one archetype with another. Putting Scarlet Johnson on the cover of the Avengers does not equality make, even if she can roundhouse.  See Margaret Lyons’ similar argument regarding The Newsroom

Khandi Alexander as LaDonna Baptiste-Williams on Treme

Khandi Alexander as LaDonna Baptiste-Williams on Treme

Though I wouldn’t state my position with quite the extremity McDougall’s essay title suggests (though that’s probably just a smart editor baiting for clicks), I generally feel the same way. The female characters that I am thrilled to see in TV and movies are complicated, multi-faceted, not-always-right, not-always-wrong humans. While there’s an aspirational part of me that will always love CJ Cregg (The Jackal is forever in my heart), CJ is not complicated for me. She is strong and devoted and loyal and smart, but I always agree with her. She never makes mistakes. Never behaves badly, or selfishly, or shows weakness that isn’t also designed to show strength. She is an idealized version of what I want a press secretary to be (Remember “Crackpots and These Women?” Bartlett idealizes her too) and never forces me to confront hard truths or tough ethical dilemmas.

There’s room for the CJs, of course, but it’s also important that we show that women can be messy and difficult (This is the age of the anti-hero, right? How about an anti-heroine?) They can be good people who make mistakes, or bad people who aren’t always bad, or, you know, just people who are hella complicated because they’re humans. Here are a few of the characters that I generally like because they are forceful, ambitious, strong, driven but who are sometimes dishonest, weak, foolish, selfish, conflicted, etc. 

  • Deb Morgan (Dexter)
  • Skyler White (Breaking Bad)
  • Piper Chapman (Orange is the New Black…actually, everyone on Orange is the New Black)
  • Rayna James, Juliette Barnes (Nashville)
  • Jeanette Desautel, LaDonna Baptiste-Williams (Treme)
  • Peggy Olson (Mad Men)
  • Carrie Mathison (Homeland)
  • Claire Underwood (House of Cards)
  • Cersei Lannister (Game of Thrones)
  • Diane Lockhart, Alicia Florrick (The Good Wife)

There’s something to be said for the fact that I could pull this list off the top of my head. I do think things are getting better, with more and more interesting (not “strong,” but interesting) roles for women. So what do we want? I think McDougall sums it up well:

What do I want instead of a Strong Female Character? I want a male:female character ratio of 1:1 instead of 3:1 on our screens. I want a wealth of complex female protagonists who can be either strong or weak or both or neither, because they are more than strength or weakness. Badass gunslingers and martial artists sure, but also interesting women who are shy and quiet and do, sometimes, put up with others’ shit because in real life there’s often no practical alternative. And besides heroines, I want to see women in as many and varied secondary and character roles as men: female sidekicks, mentors, comic relief, rivals, villains.

Related Post: Things that are not the opposite of misogyny

Related Post: The best two minutes on TV about sex ever. 


Filed under Gender, Hollywood, Really Good Writing by Other People

Badass Ladies on the TV

Today I’m over at Persephone Magazine (check out their kick-ass new layout!) listing some of the coolest characters on TV in 2011. Forgive me, New Year’s makes my list-making affinity go berserk. I picked my faves, but despite an intense, damn near pathological devotion to the tube, I don’t watch everything. Who did I miss?

Related Post: Last time on Persephone, I did the 5-book challenge.

Related Post: Here’s my Persephone piece, “How to Ace an Interview.”

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Filed under Gender, Hollywood, Media, Republished!

Sunday Scraps 20

1. BODY: Kate at Eat the Damn Cake had a stellar guest-poster this week named Anna who wrote an essay about the kind of language her young cousins were overhearing about body image.

2. PLAY: I did NOT have shit like this as a child. New York Times has a slideshow of some of the most elaborate playhouses around. $150K for a playhouse? I don’t care if it looks like a pirate ship!

3. BLOOD SCIENCE: In the absence of Dexter, spend some time examining this super nifty diagram of blood spatter analysis, from ForensicNursing.org.

4: MARRIAGE: Here’s a rather convincing editorial about polygamous marriage and why the state shouldn’t mess with them. If you strip out the nasty child bride stuff, where’s your argument?

5: AMBIEN: Hilarious take from The Hairpin on what happens when a female comedian with an Ambien addiction finds herself in Dubai without her fix. Surprisingly moving at the end, too!

6: DATING: Jesse Eisenberg of Social Network fame wrote a how-to for McSweeney’s about what the post-heteronormative dude is supposed to do while trying to pick up chicks. Good luck, gentlemen.

Related Post: Sunday last week: Westboro crazies, Stanford Prison Experiment, Dan Savage as bully?, and the doc who worked on JFK.

Related Post: Two weeks ago: resisting misogyny in advertising, period marketing, and how texting is saving dying languages.


Filed under Body Image, Gender, Media, Really Good Writing by Other People