PREACH IT, JOSS.
And this is exactly what I dislike about Joss Whedon’s writing: He still considers “heroine” subordinate to “hero”; that is, a woman must adopt what society typically identifies as masculine behaviors or thought processes in order to be considered compellingly strong. She must suppress her treacherous emotions or her fears in order to get the job done — or, in the case of Black Widow, she’s allowed to turn her fear into a weapon to manipulate the men who underestimate her. (And if she doesn’t suppress her emotions, then she destined to be a victim, like Penny in Dr. Horrible.)
And while that is one way of writing a strong female character, it’s not the only way, or even the best way. Inherently it’s a man’s idealization of what female strength is — it’s essentially male strength mapped onto a female form — and thus Whedon’s much-lauded “strong female characters” all end up looking and sounding and acting very much like men as a result. There’s a reason so many men love Joss Whedon’s work; his women are essentially men with boobs, and I’ll even go so far as to say that Whedon’s work reinforces the patriarchal ideal.
As revolutionary as Buffy was when it first came on, times have changed, but Whedon’s writing hasn’t. He still thinks “heroine” is synonymous with second-class character, or with someone that needs saving. But you can be a strong woman, a strong heroine, without needing to be a woman playing by a man’s rules.
Case in point: Isabela, from Dragon Age 2. If only more female characters were as self-empowered and liberated as she, I think we’d have a much healthier generation of young girls as a result. Forget Buffy. Give me a pirate with some Antivan boots every single time.
If there’s one phrase I wish I could erase from discussion about female heroes it’s “These female characters are men with boobs!”. I hate it whenever it turns up. It’s just as damaging to female characters as the idea that women who express more emotion or are more flirty are weak for having traditionally ‘feminine’ traits
I’ve seen the ‘this woman isn’t really a woman.’ thrown around before, at characters I, a believe it or not, real live woman who still views herself as 100% female, was able to relate to and identify with far more then those lauded as ‘properly female’. Characters like Ellen Ripley or Sarah Connor, “those aren’t really women! They’re men with breasts!”
This is a huge pile of steaming B*S*
Believe it or not women are people
Men are people
People are, surprisingly enough different. Our personalties and coping mechanisms are not always decided by what’s between our legs. Some men are emotional when under pressure some women are not. WHAT A SHOCK.
I think you’re reading into what I posted something I didn’t write. Nowhere in my original point of, “I think Joss Whedon has one definition of female strength that just so happens to match up with what we as a culture consider masculine strength” did I ever say two bits about exhibitions of sexuality as weakness, men’s coping mechanisms and inner emotional growth, or that you’re not allowed to identify with whoever the heck you want. You brought that to the conversation. Not me.
For what it’s worth, I consider both Sarah Connor and Ellen Ripley some of the most well-rounded, brilliant female characters in science fiction — and they’re women who behave and think like women, not men.
What’s more, both were written by James Cameron, which should prove if nothing else that men are just as capable of writing strong female characters as women are, and that Joss Whedon is not the special snowflake that male-dominated geek culture likes to make him out to be. I mean, plenty of men write believable female characters, just as plenty of women write believable male characters. But within geek communities, Joss Whedon is idolized for some reason and held on a pedestal that I don’t think he deserves.