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Monday, October 18, 2010

Female Character Flowchart

"Beware when the great God lets loose a thinker on this planet." - Ralph Waldo Emerson

***


(from The Female Character Flowchart | Overthinking It)
"Can she carry her own story?
Is she three dimensional?
Does she represent an idea?
Does she have any flaws?
Is she killed before the third act?"

The stated intention is to focus "on the one- and two-dimensional female characters we see over and over again in modern fiction".

But then, with standards such as those in this flowchart, we can ask just how many male characters would similarly qualify as "strong male characters".

Comments:

"I do think that you think the male characters in, e.g., Christopher Nolan films are more well-developed than they are, though. Take DiCaprio’s character in Inception: emotionally closed-off, hyper-aggressive male who is secretly reliving a trauma. Or Batman: hyper-aggressive, emotionally closed off male who is secretly reliving a trauma. Or Memento: hyper-aggressive, emotionally closed off male (closed off even to himself) who is secretly reliving a trauma."

"i’ll address the chris nolan thing. he’s stated that, for him, noir films should be about addressing your biggest fears and one of his biggest fears is losing his spouse, hence that recurring theme. even still, ariadne in inception is totally non-sexualized and not really subject to much stereotyping. same with ramirez in the dark knight. rachel dawes is killed in the dark knight, but i think that was more of a subversion of the damsel-in-distress trope, underscoring that batman can’t save everyone and that his mere existence is going to have very real costs.

my point is, it’s fun and whatever to make these sorts of lighthearted j’accuse posts and shit, but there could be reasons that a writer does something that has nothing to do with “gender issues.” i could easily say that you’re just another feminist who doesn’t care about minorities, thus you must be a racist. but that wouldn’t be true. would it?"

"A character can be two dimensional and still provide plenty of substance within those two dimensions. Characters can also certainly fit into your categories and still be strong characters. You can’t dismiss a character’s merits simply for exhibiting some of these traits, many of which are actual traits that some women have"

"If Mlawski actually thinks Lady Macbeth, Zoe Washburn, Riply, and Sarah Conner and some others on the chart are somehow *not* Strong (and complex, 3D, well-developed) Female Characters, then I may have misinterpreted the term drastically."

"The constraints of what constitutes a strong character are so unbelievably narrow that I find it difficult to think of a single person getting through. All these labels your sticking onto the characters…those labels can also be thought as flaws in some chases. Flaws that make a character more believable, more human. And some of the pathways to the labels don’t make any sense. Why, just because you’re the token female in a band, must you be useless?... This chart, to me, seems to be just as sexist as what it’s railing against"

"You could have saved time with this: Does she pass the Bechdel Test? Yes, strong female character. No, everything else."
[Reply: "Mean Girls totally passes the Bechdel Test. Does that make them strong female characters? (I actually liked Mean Girls, but its strength wasn’t really in the characterization)"]

"You keep using this word “stereotype.” I do not think it means what you think it means... You have over 70 different possibilities and many characters pictured whom have gone all the way through your opening (or optimal) tree branch. That’s hardly “standardized,” “simplified” nor based on “some” prior assumptions. That’s very, very specific focusing... your argument is actually proving against your case rather than for it"

"This kind of seems like the *opposite* of what you say you’re trying to do. You say you want people to write nuanced female characters, but you reduce all these nuanced female characters into stereotypes. It’s just another way to say that female characters aren’t good enough, no matter how they’re written."

"This list PRETENDS to be feminist, but in fact tears apart tons of really fabulous female characters in order to stuff them into cliched boxes. News flash: ANY role can be torn down to a cliche. (Hamlet = emo boy. Am I wrong? No. Have I told you everything there is to understand about Hamlet? Also no.) You’re claiming to be this red-hot feminist while playing right into the sexist trap of assuming that any female role MUST be cliched or inadequate because, after all, a woman’s playing it. So why care about female characters at all? I’m embarrassed for you."

"From your examples, it seems the only thing a character has to do to fall off the top line is be written with tits. Harley Quinn can’t carry her own story? Mystique can’t carry her own story? Ripley (for God’s sake, Ripley???) can’t carry her own story? Are you even familiar with those characters, or did you just grab images at random to fill your bubbles? (Although they are all two-dimensional, since the first two are drawn on paper and the third is projected on a flat screen)"

"I think it is very, very telling that the makers of this chart didn’t even bother to try to find a character that fit their idea of a Strong Female Character–that makes it look even more like this chart only exists to rip female characters to shreds"

"Had Yoko Ono been any other race, she still would have the same stigma attached to her, whether or not you think that’s fair is an entirely different matter.

Should only white people be able to become symbolic of archetypes? Wouldn’t excluding people of minorities from that simply because of their race be, oh I don’t know, kind of racist? At the very least it is patronizing to people of minorities, as it excludes them from something for the absurd reason that using a person from a minority as a negative symbol might be construed as racist"

"By the way, mlawsk is the only woman listed on the overthinkingit staff. She’s the token female. I wonder if she’s the emotional core, or the useless girl?"
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