Strong female character

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Strong female character is a term for a class of stock character. It is the opposite of the damsel in distress stock character. While such characters could be used by authors to question implicit assumptions about male privilege and patriarchy in the first half of the 20th century, the rise of mainstream feminism and the increased use of the concept in the later 20th century have reduced the concept to a standard item of pop culture fiction.

Contemporary pop culture franchises tend to optimise their female stock characters to appeal to both male and female audiences (Lara Croft). The "strong female character" is not necessarily physically strong or an "action heroine" but can reveal "strong" character with relevance to the plot (as heroine or villainess), often taking the role of a sexually attractive femme fatale.


Despite the archetype arising largely through feminism, it has not been universally well received by those supportive of women's rights.[1] Sophia McDougall of the New Statesman has criticized the high prevalence of strong female characters for creating a cliché that represents women as unrealistically strong; she argues that the simplicity of this archetype does little to present women in media in a realistic, complex way.[2] Carina Chocano from The New York Times has offered similar criticism for the "shorthand meme" of strong female characters; while she sees them as a "gateway drug" to realistic representation, she takes offense at the implication that female characters are "not interesting or worth identifying with" if they are not cold, flawless, and masculine.[3] In contrast, Alison Willmore of BuzzFeed takes issue with popular interpretation of the word "strong" rather than with the archetype itself; she prefers strong female characters in the sense of well-developed ones given a legitimate point of view over "badass" ones.[4] Kelly Faircloth of the feminist blog Jezebel believes that strong female characters are not enough or required, but that women must have integral roles in the plot apart from helping men realize theirs (rather than, "seamlessly replace[able] with a floor lamp").[5]

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