Strong Female Characters: Daisy Buchanan

For those of you that don’t know, Daisy is the leading lady of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s 1925 novel, The Great Gatsby. Set in the Roaring Twenties, the book tells the story of the enigmatic Jay Gatsby trying to win back his lost love – the now-married Daisy Buchanan – and how terribly, awfully wrong it ends up going. The book was not an instant success, but has since gone on to be recognised as one of the classic American novels, spawning countless film adaptations, ballets, computer games, operas, radio plays and an endless mountain of high school English essays. Daisy herself is at the centre of all this, widely regarded as one of the most divisive characters in modern literature and – depending on who you ask – one of the most hated, too.

But does she measure up to the hype? Let’s find out – but watch out for spoilers!

 

  1. Does the character shape her own destiny? Does she actively try to change her situation and if not, why not?

Daisy actually has very little control over her own life. She’s trapped in an unhappy marriage to Tom Buchanan and spends most of the book reacting to his infidelities in one way or another. Later, she meets her old flame Jay Gatsby, who has been pining after her for years, who she ends up having an affair with, but this is all instigated by him. Tom and Gatsby eventually confront each other about this, forcing Daisy to choose between them, but Daisy is so torn between them that she says she loves them both, a decision that neither one of them accepts. In the end, Daisy kills her husband’s mistress in a hit-and-run, but this has little to no effect on her life, as she ends up retreating into the safety of her wealthy marriage rather than face up to her mistakes.

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Like this. (image: giphy.com)

It’s made pretty clear to the reader that Daisy isn’t really the one in control of her own destiny – Tom and Gatsby are. When her husband is unfaithful, we don’t see her confront him about it, or try to make him change his ways. She doesn’t decide to pursue Gatsby – Gatsby has been pining over her for years, and has made it his life’s work to try and get her back. When Tom and Gatsby both try to get her to say that she never loved the other, and she tells them that she loved them both, both of them reject her attempts to explain her feelings and reach a solution that she’s comfortable with. When she runs over Tom’s mistress, Myrtle, Tom tells everyone that Gatsby was driving the car – which leads directly to Gatsby’s murder – and she simply doesn’t say anything to correct him. She doesn’t need to actually do anything in order for the story to progress; she can simply stay silent, let her suitors approach her, and stay in her unhappy marriage.

Personally, I think this is a pretty damning commentary on the kinds of values that are often caught up with ‘old money’ – namely, social conservatism, preserving the status quo and the need to save face. This is made clearer when we look at the flashback describing Daisy’s wedding. The night before, she receives a letter from Gatsby, gets incredibly drunk and, sobbing, tells them all she’s going to call it off. Her friends and servants don’t say a word – they simply clean her up, put her to bed, and the next day she marries Tom Buchanan without saying a word. Daisy’s unhappiness is never brought up again, and she starts making a life with the rich, entitled Tom just as everyone else expected her to.

To me, this exemplifies how trapped Daisy is by her own wealth and privilege. She can scream, she can cry, she can sleep with another man behind her husband’s back, and she can even kill a woman in her car, but no matter what she does her life will still be stuck on the same track. She will still be married to Tom Buchanan, still be ignoring his affairs, and still be unhappy, and there’s absolutely nothing she can do about it.

SCORE SO FAR: 0

 

  1. Does she have her own goals, beliefs and hobbies? Did she come up with them on her own?

 

We don’t see a lot of Daisy’s hobbies. She does a lot of fairly stereotypical ‘upper-class lady’ activities, but we rarely see her actually enjoy them. More often than not we see her judging other people – particularly the crass, ‘new money’ type she meets at Gatsby’s parties – but she doesn’t seem to enjoy this much, either.

Her goals and beliefs aren’t really all that clearly defined, either. We know that Daisy clearly holds some socially conservative values about the way people ought to act – this is clearly shown in her distaste for Gatsby’s ostentatious parties and her reluctance to get a divorce. She’s also pretty vocal about her daughter’s prospects: in one of her most famous lines, she declares that the best thing a girl can be is a “beautiful little fool”.

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Personally, I think the best thing a girl can be is a pilot for one of these laser dinosaurs. (image: aidanmoher.com)

You can read this statement either way – it could indicate a clear belief in gender inequality, or it could be a reflection of her own self-loathing and despair. But this is really all we get when it comes to Daisy’s beliefs, and we get considerably less when it comes to her goals. Daisy is a character marked by indecision, and her total lack of goals is a clear indication of this. Daisy wants to find happiness, but she has absolutely no idea where to start looking. I’ll give her half a point for her beliefs, but I can’t help but feel like I’m being generous.

SCORE SO FAR: 0.5

 

  1. Is her character consistent? Do her personality or skills change as the plot demands?

Daisy’s character is pretty consistent. She’s charming, flighty, insincere and irresponsible – and, if you ask me, more than a little emotionally stunted, but I’ll get into that later. We don’t see much of her skills beyond her ability to charm people, but that remains consistent throughout the book, so I’ll give her the point.

SCORE SO FAR: 1.5

 

  1. Can you describe her in one short sentence without mentioning her love life, her physical appearance, or the words ‘strong female character’?

Actually, you can’t. Daisy’s role in The Great Gatsby is inextricable from her position as Tom’s wife and the object of Gatsby’s desire, and a lot of that is tied up with her physical appearance. You can describe her personality, but it’s impossible to describe her role within the story without referencing her love life or physical appearance.

SCORE SO FAR: 1.5

 

  1. Does she make decisions that aren’t influenced by her love life?

Daisy doesn’t actually make a lot of decisions at all, as most of the time she’s just reacting to the actions of other characters, but those she does make are exclusively surrounding her love life. She decides who to marry, she decides to start a secret affair with Gatsby, she decides to eventually go back to Tom.

It’s worth noting that you could make the case that in Daisy’s eyes, Tom and Gatsby represent more than just a choice of lovers. It’s implied that Daisy married Tom for his wealth, as when their initial courtship is discussed it’s peppered with references to all the fancy gifts he bought her. He comes from an old, established family and she has a child with him, too, so it’s pretty clear that he represents the kind of life she’s always known. But if Tom represents stability and privilege, Gatsby represents something a bit more unobtainable. Based on their strong connection to the past, and on Daisy’s own fond recollections of her life before marriage, I’d say that for her, Gatsby represents a chance to reclaim all the brilliance and promise of youth, when she was adored by everyone and hadn’t yet learned to be cynical. In this respect, you could argue that Daisy isn’t just choosing between men, she’s choosing between lifestyles: the financial security and stability of traditional Tom and the uncertain, flashy brilliance of garish Gatsby.

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Alliteration is just so great. (image: giphy.com)

However, it’s also important to remember that this interpretation is mostly conjecture (and not least because I just came up with it in the past ten minutes). Daisy’s internal struggle is never once illuminated by the narrative, so we have no idea what she’s really thinking. It’s true that she is the focus of the novel, but it’s a very selective kind of focus – she is the object of two men’s desires, but Daisy’s hopes, dreams, fears and motivations are never once discussed in any kind of detail. What is discussed in detail is her physical appearance, her charming personality, her considerable wealth and her well-respected family name – but I’ll discuss the implications of this later on. For now, I’m withholding the point, because there simply isn’t any confirmation that this is how Daisy sees her two suitors.

SCORE SO FAR: 1.5

 

  1. Does she develop over the course of the story?

Daisy doesn’t develop over the story at all, and this is actually central to the wider themes of the novel. She learns absolutely nothing as the novel progresses, because the buffer of her wealth means she doesn’t have to learn anything. She’s never once confronted with anything that makes her consider changing her behaviour, so I’m withholding the point.

SCORE SO FAR: 1.5

 

  1. Does she have a weakness?

Daisy has plenty of weaknesses. She’s careless, shallow, indecisive, cowardly and snobbish. What’s more, she’s actively unable to break ties with the traditional values that have been the cause of so much of her unhappiness. Personally, I see her as a character that’s also somewhat emotionally stunted, as she frequently reacts to things in a very childish way and doesn’t always seem to understand the consequences of her actions. This ties into the point I made in question six – she’s been so sheltered by wealth and privilege that the vast majority of her behaviour is excused or covered up because of it, and thus she never has to face up to her mistakes like an adult or grow as a person. I’m giving her the point.

SCORE SO FAR: 2.5

 

  1. Does she influence the plot without getting captured or killed?

Daisy is another one of those characters who influence the plot in a very passive kind of way. She has an effect on the plot just by being beautiful, charming and unobtainable, and making people fall in love with her. When you take that away, she mostly ends up reacting to other characters’ actions, whether that’s Gatsby pursuing her or Tom trying to win her back. I’ll give her half a point for this, because her reactions do have a pretty big impact, but I’m not happy about it.

SCORE SO FAR: 3

 

  1. How does she relate to stereotypes about gender?

This is going to get complicated.

giddy marysue
Get ready. (image: themarysue.com)

So much of Daisy’s character is based on gender stereotypes that it’s almost impossible to separate her from them. She starts the novel being portrayed as an ingénue – a childlike, innocent and beautiful young woman who is silly, naïve and cosseted by those around her. This is how Gatsby sees her through most of the novel, and it’s heavily implied that due to her considerable wealth, he sees her as something of a ‘princess’.

But this is a façade. It’s made clear that Daisy’s charm covers up an aching gulf – scrape away the top layer and there’s not much there. In the novel, what fills this void is petty, careless, selfishness, but subsequent film adaptations have attempted to redeem her character by showing the deep extent of her unhappiness. In many of the movies, Daisy acts the way she does because it’s easier for her to pretend than face up to her own aching despair. In the book, she’s portrayed much more unforgivingly, and is depicted as an overwhelmingly shallow gold-digger.

This is where interpreting Daisy’s character gets a little tricky. In the book, she passes from one stereotype to another, going from the delicate, innocent ingénue to the ruthless, shallow, silly woman who chooses wealth over love. This is hugely and deeply problematic for obvious reasons. However, when more modern adaptations show her as a woman facing considerable societal pressure and struggling with a certain amount of despair and self-loathing, it becomes pretty clear that this interpretation doesn’t really hold water any more. She becomes a slightly different character – still shallow, still silly, but not so much ruthless as scared. She becomes less of a gold-digger and more of a victim.

It’s worth noting that this sympathy for her character is pretty much absent from the original novel. Fitzgerald drew on real women he’d loved as inspiration for Daisy’s character – including his wife, Zelda – which throws up some really worrying implications if you stop to think about it. But whichever adaptation you look at, there’s no getting away from the fact that much of Daisy’s appeal stems from the fact that she is a representation of certain values and things, more than an actual character.

If you look closely at the descriptions of what makes Daisy attractive, they’re all closely linked to wealth. Her voice – supposed to be one of her key charms – is described as “full of money”. She’s the “golden girl”, the “king’s daughter”, who lives in a “high white palace”. She’s frequently associated with the colour white, which as well as symbolising purity and innocence is closely linked to wealth – because in the 1920s, unless you were wealthy enough to pay someone else to do your cleaning for you, you just wouldn’t have been able to keep a white dress white. It’s implied that this is also part of the reason why Gatsby is so hung up on her in the first place, as she is the living embodiment of all the wealth he never got to experience growing up. In this respect, she’s a twisted version of the Manic Pixie Dream Girl – not a character in her own right, but a catalyst to force male characters into action.

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I swear I’m having flashbacks… (image: theoryhairsalon.com)

When you combine this conflation of her wealth and physical attractiveness with her passive status, her shallow demeanour and her lack of concrete goals, it becomes pretty clear that Daisy isn’t intended to be a realistic depiction of a woman trapped in an unhappy marriage. Rather, she’s a representation of a certain set of values and morals, tied up with Fitzgerald’s own views on the fickleness of women. She represents the allure of wealth, the corruption it can engender, and the directionless, hollow morals of the Jazz Age as a wider whole, and this is tied up with all sorts of gendered nonsense. I’m withholding the point.

SCORE SO FAR: 3

 

  1. How does she relate to other female characters?

We don’t see Daisy relate to many other female characters. She never meets her husband’s mistress, and the only other female characters we actually see her interact with are her young daughter and her friend Jordan. Her daughter, Pammy, is treated like little more than a favourite pet – Daisy kisses and cuddles her when she’s brought in to see her, but when she’s taken away she doesn’t give her so much as a second thought. We don’t see a lot more to her relationship with Jordan, either – while they’ve been friends for a long time, and Jordan is the reason we find out about her past with Gatsby, we don’t actually see much of what actually brought them together in the first place. Initially, they’re set up to contrast each other – where Daisy is more traditionally feminine, Jordan is much more direct, cynical and assertive – but as the novel progresses, it becomes clear that they’re much more similar than they first seem.

FINAL SCORE: 3.5/10

 

Daisy is a consistent character with a range of weaknesses who affects the plot in a limited capacity but ultimately, she hasn’t passed my test. While subsequent adaptations have done their best to redeem her, her portrayal in the original novel isn’t fleshed out enough to let her pass my test.

A lot of this is due to the fact that she isn’t really a character in her own right – she’s a symbol. Her function in The Great Gatsby is to represent things – whether that’s the restrictions of old money, the unobtainability of true wealth, or the disappointment of dreams – rather than to exist within the story as a character in her own right. She doesn’t really do anything – she’s just, you know, there, being unobtainable and silly and shallow. The narrative doesn’t really develop her as a character, but instead focuses on how her presence develops the men around her. Daisy herself consistently takes a back seat, even though so much of the story revolves around her. This is a direct result of how women were viewed in the 1920s, and I suspect Fitzgerald’s own messy relationships with women influenced Daisy’s role as well. Either way, she still fails.

Next week, I’ll be going back to one of my favourite series. Ginny Weasley, I’m coming for you.

 

And if you’re looking for all my posts on Strong Female Characters, you can find them here.

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Strong Female Characters: Mabel Pines

For those of you that don’t know, Mabel is one of the lead characters of the critically-acclaimed cartoon show, Gravity Falls. Set in a mysterious little Oregon town, the plot centres around the adventures of Mabel and her twin brother, Dipper, as they try and unravel the town’s mysteries over their summer holiday. The show was a huge success, spawning legions of fans, fanfics and elaborate theories as well as winning several awards and being described as “the best show on TV.” Mabel herself has been a huge part of that success, becoming a favourite with fans and critics alike.

But does she measure up to the hype? Let’s find out – but watch out for spoilers!

 

  1. Does the character shape her own destiny? Does she actively try to change her situation and if not, why not?

Being twelve for most of the series, there are some things that Mabel will never be able to control – seeing as she’s so young, things like her living and travel arrangements aren’t really up to her. That said, Mabel does exert a remarkable amount of control over her life for someone so young. She’s able to decide who she hangs out with, what crazy mysteries she does (or doesn’t) investigate, and frequently gets to extend this to the lives of her friends and family. On a much larger scale, she also ends up playing a very significant role in the downfall of the series’ ultimate villain, Bill Cipher. For those of you that haven’t seen the show, Bill is a multi-dimensional fear demon who, despite the fact that Gravity Falls is a children’s show, has the ability to do things like this:

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OH GOD WHY (image: villains.wikia.com)

Mabel plays a huge part in leading the townspeople in their attempts to defeat Bill, as well as stopping him from hurting her family and coming up with a way to defeat him. What’s even better about Mabel’s situation is that she doesn’t end up doing this because of some prophecy/long-buried family curse/Plot McGuffin that means she’s forced into it. She’s on her path because her own ambitions, curiosity and relationships have set her on it – it’s very much a path of her own choosing.

SCORE SO FAR: 1

 

  1. Does she have her own goals, beliefs and hobbies? Did she come up with them on her own?

Mabel’s hobbies are actually very well-documented. We see her enjoying arts and crafts, scrapbooking, sleepovers, singing, dancing and mini-golf. The same is true for her beliefs – she sets a lot of store by having ‘perfect’ experiences (such as summer romances, school photos, birthday parties and even high school itself) but ultimately things like trusting her family are more important to her. Her goals aren’t really set in stone, as they tend to change from episode to episode, but they are very clearly expressed. Over the course of the series, Mabel wants to find herself a boyfriend, make new friends, keep her family together and stop the town of Gravity Falls from becoming something out of H. P. Lovecraft’s nightmares.

SCORE SO FAR: 2

 

  1. Is her character consistent? Do her personality or skills change as the plot demands?

Mabel is a pretty consistent character. She’s outgoing, silly, optimistic, confident, energetic, but can also be a little naïve, arrogant and tends to blunder into stuff without thinking about it first. She’s very kind, means well and always puts her family first, but she can be very tough when she wants to be.

As far as her skills go, we see plenty of them. She’s very creative and enjoys working with a range of different artistic materials, is very good at mini-golf but is also a very bad liar. This remains the case throughout most of the series, so I’ll give her the point.

SCORE SO FAR: 3

 

  1. Can you describe her in one short sentence without mentioning her love life, her physical appearance, or the words ‘strong female character’?

An outgoing, exuberantly happy young girl investigating a mysterious town with her twin brother.

SCORE SO FAR: 4

 

  1. Does she make decisions that aren’t influenced by her love life?

Mabel’s love life is a pretty constant feature of the series. At the very beginning of the show, she outright says that she wants to have an epic summer romance, and pursues several different boys over the course of the series.

However, it must be said that this isn’t the only thing that drives her. Once she makes two close friends and starts investigating mysteries, she’s perfectly prepared to put her romantic ambitions to one side. Equally, when Gideon Gleeful – the creepiest little child psychic you ever did see – starts pursuing her to the extent that it makes her uncomfortable, she’s more than capable of calling their romance off. It’s made pretty clear that Mabel doesn’t just want any old summer fling – she wants it to be on her own terms.

giphy mabel
It’s just that most of those terms are sort of weird. (image: giphy.com)

While at the start of the show Mabel is a little ‘boy-crazy’, she proves more than once that she’s perfectly willing to set aside her dreams of the perfect summer romance when there are more important things at stake. In fact, as the show goes on, this aspect of her character fades into the background, making it clear that it isn’t really a serious goal. I’ll be generous and give her the point.

SCORE SO FAR: 5

 

  1. Does she develop over the course of the story?

Mabel actually goes through some pretty solid character development over the course of the series. As I’ve already mentioned, her romantic ambitions become less important to her as the series progresses, but she also gains a more complex understanding of sibling relationships, starts to doubt herself a little, and learns when – and when not – to stand up for herself.

Most importantly, in the series finale she faces her fears of growing up and becoming distant from her twin brother. Bill Cipher offers her a chance to stay in a world where she’ll never grow old and have everything she wants (including stuffed animal trees). Mabel eventually realises that this world is pure fantasy, and even though reality will inevitably involve working through some very difficult things it is her only real opportunity for growth. This is some very complex and emotionally nuanced character development for a character on a cartoon show, so I’ll give her the point.

SCORE SO FAR: 6

 

  1. Does she have a weakness?

Mabel has plenty of weaknesses. She doesn’t think things through, she makes wild assumptions about other people more than once, she’s so invested in her ideas of the perfect experience that she’s actually hurt when it doesn’t live up to what she hoped for. She’s gullible, naïve, and her gut reaction is to run away from her problems rather than face up to them. These are all valid weaknesses that hold her back through the story – some of which she overcomes, some of which she doesn’t.

SCORE SO FAR: 7

 

  1. Does she influence the plot without getting captured or killed?

It has to be said that Mabel gets captured quite a few times – whether that’s by a crazy multi-dimensional fear demon, her crazy ex-boyfriend, or a bunch of gnomes who want to marry her and make her their queen.

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MEN. Honestly. (image: tumblr.com)

This doesn’t really happen for many of the other characters in Gravity Falls, and it’s worth noting that most of Mabel’s kidnappers have been romantically interested in her. That said, this is by no means her only influence on the plot – she’s still a very active character who gets herself into and out of trouble in various different ways. However, I do feel like I have to give her half a point for this one.

SCORE SO FAR: 7.5

 

  1. How does she relate to stereotypes about gender?

Mabel presents a healthy mix in terms of gender stereotypes. On the one hand, she’s very interested in activities and experiences that are traditionally feminine. She loves having sleepovers and dance parties with her friends, is very invested in having the perfect summer romance, and frequently obsesses over boy bands, stuffed animals, cute things and other people’s love lives.

But this isn’t her only interest. She’s artistic, creative, loves being silly, doesn’t care if she gets a little dirty now and then and is more than prepared to fight her way out of trouble if she needs to. She’s just as happy exploring a grimy underground laboratory as she is covering everything with glitter. This is actually a really important message for young girls in several different ways. Mabel is effectively showing viewers that traditionally masculine and feminine pastimes don’t have to be mutually exclusive – and that enjoying stereotypically feminine stuff doesn’t make you less of a person.

In fact, Mabel’s character arc and storylines often work together to present a very healthy view of a young girl growing up. Mabel’s interests aren’t belittled because they’re ‘girly’ – the other characters just make it clear that they don’t always share them. Mabel likes shopping, and makeovers, and talking about cute boys, but she does all of this on her own terms and rarely engages with the negative stuff that can come along with it. When it comes to her crushes and various boyfriends, these storylines are often used to illustrate healthy relationships.

The example I’m thinking of here is her relationship with Li’l Gideon, child psychic. Gideon pursues Mabel quite aggressively, pulling out all the stops to try and make her like him. He treats her to fancy dinners, firework displays, dancing – all the traditionally romantic things. Mabel, however, only sees him as a friend, but agrees to the first date just to be nice. She’s pressured into a relationship by the sheer force of his gift-giving and the desire to ‘let him down gently’, and winds up having to put her foot down when he goes nuts and tries to kill Dipper. Whereas other shows might portray Gideon’s efforts as romantic, sympathetic and ultimately worthy of indulgence, Gravity Falls makes it clear that he’s simply trying to manipulate Mabel into a relationship she does not want, and doesn’t shy away from portraying this as the guilt trip it really is.

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I feel like this should be taped to the front page of all dating websites ever. (image: giphy.com)

The upshot of all this is that even though in some ways, Mabel is a character founded on a lot of traditionally feminine interests, that’s not all there is to her character. She has a range of interests which don’t limit or define her as a person. Her relationships, combined with the way she meets femininity on her own terms, all add up to a very positive portrayal. I’ll give her the point.

SCORE SO FAR: 8.5

 

  1. How does she relate to other female characters?

Mabel’s relationships with other female characters are overwhelmingly positive. She looks up to her older friend, Wendy, and often goes to her for advice. She’s rivals with the Most Popular Girl in School™, Pacifica Northwest, but this eventually fizzles out into a grudging friendship. She befriends two outcasts, Candy and Grenda, using their mutual weirdness as common ground. These are the relationships we see most often, and it’s worth noting that Mabel goes out of her way to support her friends, rarely displaying the ‘bitchy’ behaviour that sometimes characterises female friendships on TV. Mabel’s relationships with other female characters are always portrayed as genuine and sincere, whether she’s dealing with friends or enemies.

FINAL SCORE: 9.5/10

 

Mabel is a well-rounded, consistent character who’s in control of her own destiny, has a range of strengths and weaknesses and develops over the course of her story. She has a range of relationships with other female characters and approaches gender stereotypes from her own unique perspective. She gets kidnapped one too many times but that’s by no means the limit of her influence on the plot – she’s firmly in control of her own destiny.

Next week, I’ll be heading back to some of the literary classics. Daisy Buchanan, I’m coming for you.

 

And if you’re looking for all my posts on Strong Female Characters, you can find them here.

Strong Female Characters: Snow White

For those of you that don’t know, Snow White is the story of a beleaguered young girl forced into servitude by her stepfamily whose stepmother is criminally jealous of her beauty. Obsessed with being the No.1 hottie, when Snow White finally comes of age and is deemed more beautiful, her wicked stepmother tries to have her killed. Snow White gets away and stays with some dwarves for a bit, but when her stepmother finds out she’s alive she gives her a poisoned apple that puts her into an enchanted sleep. Everybody’s miserable about poor old Snow being basically dead, but then a handsome prince trots along, gives her a kiss and she wakes up again. He marries her, they live happily ever after and the stepmother drops down dead – from jealousy or red-hot metal shoes being forced onto her feet, depending on which version you read.

What’s interesting about this particular fairy tale – aside from all the teenage runaways, attempted murder and step-matricide – is that unlike many of its counterparts, Snow White appears to have pretty recent origins. Unlike Cinderella, which can trace its origins back to Ancient Greece, Snow White doesn’t seem to have been around much before the Middle Ages. In fact, some scholars believe that Snow White may have been based on a real person – a German countess called Margaretha von Waldeck, or a young Bavarian noblewoman called Maria Sophia von Erthal. Both young women had difficult relationships with their stepmothers and one of them was poisoned, but beyond that, there’s not much evidence for their lives being used as inspiration for the fairy tale.

Regardless of whether Snow White is the medieval equivalent of a Lifetime movie, there’s no denying that the fairy tale has had a huge impact on the popular consciousness. The most popular version of the story is the one made known by the Brothers Grimm, but there are versions of the tale found all over the world. New versions are still popping up in the form of adaptations – whether that’s movies, TV shows, poems, video games, musicals or animes. It’s very easy to view Snow White the character as a combination of all of these different adaptations – she’s been the star of literally thousands of different stories.

But I’m not going to look at all of them. I’ve chosen six variations of the Snow White story and I’ll be seeing how each measures up to my Strong Female Characters test.

Let’s get started – but watch out for spoilers!

 

 

image: wikimedia.orgThis version of the story is the basis of most modern adaptations, although it does tend to get toned down quite a bit. Snow White is a pretty passive character whose fate is decided by other people wanting to murder or marry her. She doesn’t have any goals, beliefs or hobbies and much of her characterisation revolves around how good, sweet, innocent and kind she is – but this is, at least, consistent.

You can’t tell her story without referencing her physical appearance – there’s just no getting away from the fact that her entire story revolves around the fact that she’s a total hottie. Interestingly, this doesn’t mean that her love life affects many of her decisions. Snow White’s decisions revolve around staying alive or finding a few nice things for herself. It’s the Prince who dictates her love life when he comes across her unconscious/possibly dead body and decides to MAKE OUT WITH AND MARRY HER.

Come back, nope-rocket! TAKE ME WITH YOU! (image: photobucket.com)
Come back, nope-rocket! TAKE ME WITH YOU! (image: photobucket.com)

She doesn’t develop over the course of the story, she doesn’t have a weakness and while she does influence the story in some way, she plays a very passive role. She’s reacting to other people’s actions or letting the plot revolve around her. As far as her relationships with other female characters go, we only really see her interact with her stepmother (or mother, in the original story), and while their relationship raises all sorts of interesting questions about jealousy and female competition it isn’t explored in any real depth. And when it comes to gender stereotypes, she’s practically a cliché with legs. She’s a lesson on the dangers of female vanity and jealousy in red lipstick, not a character with any real development, agency or personality of her own.

FINAL SCORE: 3/10

 

 

image: youtube.comWhile the Brothers Grimm interpretation is the version of the tale most commonly used as inspiration, the one that most people actually know is the 1937 Walt Disney film. Unfortunately, this version doesn’t do much for her character, either. Her fate as a larger whole is still decided by other people playing a real life game of Screw, Marry, Kill. She does have a bit more to her in this version – we know she’s fond of cooking, cleaning, dancing and singing, and she believes in a lot of vague, wishy-washy stuff about true love and following your star and the power of dreams, etc. Her personality is pretty similar to the original fairy tale – we don’t see much different to the original kind, sweet, innocent heroine.

You still can’t describe her story without referencing her physical appearance. Thankfully her love life starts featuring in the story BEFORE she slips into a coma rather than during, but it actually doesn’t affect a lot of her decisions – once again, she focuses on staying alive while the Prince is the one actively pursuing her. She doesn’t develop, she doesn’t have any weaknesses aside from being just too kind, and she’s even less of an influence on the plot than in the original fairy tale. Her relationship with the Evil Queen isn’t given any more depth – if anything, we see less of it in this version – and when it comes to gender stereotypes she’s another walking morality tale. Much like Cinderella, her story is used to sell the idea that goodness, kindness and innocence will see a girl through all her troubles – never mind things like self-reliance, being proactive, taking your fate into your own hands and having more than a spoonful of common sense.

OOOOHHHHHHHH (image: giphy.com)
OOOOHHHHHHHH (image: giphy.com)

FINAL SCORE: 3.5/10

 

 

image: shortstorystation.wordpress.comThis is probably one of the most radically different interpretations of the Snow White fairytale, and certainly one of the versions I most enjoy. Told from the perspective of the ‘evil’ queen, in this version Snow White is an unholy vampire, Prince Charming is a necrophiliac, and the long-suffering step-queen is trying her best to conquer evil, govern the kingdom and just not get eaten. Snow White has a bit more control over her own fate, as she’s trying to take down her stepmother, but ultimately her ‘Destiny’ is decided by what she is rather than what she does. She has a pretty clear goal – get back at her stepmother – but she’s such a mysterious character that we don’t actually know a lot about her hobbies and beliefs.

Apart from MURDER. (image: giphy.com)
Apart from MURDER. (image: giphy.com)

She’s consistently portrayed as a cold, manipulative, ruthless character with the ability to hold people in her sway. It’s very easy to describe her without referencing her love life, appearance or the words ‘strong female character’, too: “a terrifying vampire princess determined to get revenge on the stepmother who cast her out”. Her love life features in the story quite a bit, but Snow White uses it as a means to an end – she uses her sexuality to lure in her victims and nom on their tasty, tasty necks. She doesn’t appear to feel any actual love at all, and so most of her decisions are motivated by a desire to feed herself or get back into power rather than real emotions.

She does suffer from the classic ‘mysterious character’ syndrome – she’s so mysterious that we don’t actually know all that much about her, which makes it difficult to pinpoint exactly how her personality develops. She does have a tendency to underestimate people and isn’t very good at spotting when people are trying to kill her, but other than that she’s something of a superhuman. Because she’s so determined to eat some people she drives the plot forward all through the story, but when it comes to gender stereotypes it’s not so clear-cut. In some ways she’s quite progressive, in that she’s a young woman who has no boundaries, will do anything to stay alive and is stone cold evil, ruthless and (literally) bloodthirsty. In other ways she really isn’t – she falls right into the bracket of the Femme Fatale, who uses her womanly wiles to lure men to their doom. Much like the original fairy tale, we only really see her interact with her stepmother, but this relationship is given a lot more depth and detail as the two see each other as adversaries on the same level.

FINAL SCORE: 6.5/10

 

 

image: youtube.comAnd now we come to the more recent adaptations of the Snow White fairy tale. Once Upon A Time doesn’t set out to tell Snow White’s story alone – it draws on several other fairy tale characters, but Snow White is one of the principal ones. Set in the little American town of Storybrooke, the plot revolves around several fairy tale characters who find themselves stuff in the real world – and the ‘Saviour’ who’s supposed to lead them home.

In this version, Snow White’s destiny is largely in her own hands – she does still react to stuff the bad guys set in motion, but she’s more than capable of trying to improve her life under her own steam. She has some pretty clearly defined goals and beliefs – she believes in doing what’s right, trusting in herself and the importance of family and true love, and she’s always looking to secure a safe life for her family. Her personality is pretty consistent – she’s kind, brave, determined and generally well-meaning – but her skills are another matter, as she’s pretty much perfect at everything without having to put much effort in.

It’s possible to describe her story and character if you focus on her goals to take back her kingdom and secure a good life for her family – and this is also what motivates most of her decisions (rather than her love life). She also develops over the course of her own story, as she buries the hatchet with the Evil Queen and learns to see the world in less black and white terms. However, she doesn’t really have much of a weakness as she’s just so perfect.

That's not a good thing. (image: tumblr.com)
That’s not a good thing. (image: tumblr.com)

She’s another one of those characters who can stand still and let the plot generate itself around her, and most of the time she’s reacting to the actions of other characters rather than acting of her own accord. However, she’s actually pretty decent in terms of gender stereotype as she’s a character who wants to settle down and raise a family, while also taking her rightful place as queen, organising military campaigns, and governing a kingdom. As far as her relationships with other female characters go, she has plenty to choose from, and over the course of the series these are allowed to develop in their own distinct ways. I don’t particularly like Once Upon A Time (or Snow’s character in the show, for that matter) but I have to say that I think she’s done a pretty good job.

FINAL SCORE: 8/10

 

 

image: all4desktop.comThis retelling is one of those modern takes on fairy tales where the screenwriters are desperate to stick to the original story while trying to get around the fact that their protagonist is a bit of a wet blanket. Mirror Mirror is a formulaic retelling of the fairy tale except this time, Snow White is actively trying to bring down the Evil Queen. She joins a group of dwarves who happen to be bandits and plots to overthrow the queen – all while never raising her voice above a demure whisper.

Can you pull a muscle from rolling your eyes? Asking for a friend. (image: giphy.com)
Can you pull a muscle from rolling your eyes? Asking for a friend. (image: giphy.com)

Snow White has a stab at taking control of her own destiny – she does spend the movie trying to overthrow the queen – but a lot of her actions are the result of her own physical attractiveness or the actions of other characters driving the plot. She believes in fairness, equality and being a responsible ruler, and works towards getting the queen out of power and saving the prince. Her personality is consistently kind, sweet, innocent and well-meaning, and even though she does go from sheltered little princess to sword-wielding bandit we do actually see her train for this.

You can describe her without referencing her love life, appearance or the words ‘Strong Female Character’ – a kind, well-meaning young princess trying to take back her kingdom. However, her love life still motivates a lot of her actions, as she’s only trying to save the Prince because she fancies him. She develops confidence and self-reliance over the course of the story, but doesn’t really have any weaknesses that hold her back, and she’s another one of those characters whose influence on the plot is mainly reacting to other characters. Usually it’s Julia Roberts hammily ruining her life, a generically good-looking Prince pursuing her and swooning a bit, or even the disappearance of her father, the king, who is inexplicably played by Sean Bean.

It's like a good actor just wandered onto the set and they shot the film around him. (image: pastemagazine.com)
It’s like a good actor just wandered onto the set and they shot the film around him. (image: pastemagazine.com)

In terms of gender stereotypes, she’s quite deceptive. She’s set up as a character who breaks down gender stereotypes by running away, stealing things and overthrowing a kingdom but if you really look at her, she’s very much on the back foot. Most of her moments of empowerment are things other characters cajole her into doing, which really takes away from any positive stuff she might have had. When it comes to her relationships with other female characters, she really only has two – the evil queen, who is nasty, and the cook, who is nice. That isn’t really good enough – and to be frank, the same can be said for the rest of the film.

FINAL SCORE: 6.5/10

 

 

image: studenthandouts.comThis last retelling is probably the one which got the most attention in recent years. Released in 2012, Snow White and the Huntsman desperately attempts to re-cast Snow White as a ‘Strong Female Character’ by putting her in some armour, having her fight off the evil Queen Ravenna, and giving her an emergency spine transplant. However, it doesn’t quite hold up. Snow White isn’t really in control of her own destiny, as her entire fate revolves around her royal blood and the fact that she is the only one who can grant the queen immortality. The Queen spends most of the story trying to kill her, so she has no real option but to take her out if she wants to stay alive.

We don’t see any of her hobbies, and her beliefs aren’t explored much beyond the typical goodness, justice and kindness, but throughout the film she strives to get away from, and then defeat, Queen Ravenna. She’s consistently good, sweet, kind and determined but her skills are all over the place. She’s got unexplained magical powers coming out of her ears, and after spending half of her life locked up in a tower she’s suddenly strong enough to put on full plate armour, wield a sword, lead an army into battle and single-handedly defeat the evil Queen. You can, however, describe her character without referencing her love life, appearance or the words Strong Female Character: a kind, fair-minded young princess attempting to take back her kingdom.

This Snow White doesn’t really have much of a love life at all, as most of it seems to take place when she’s unconscious (which is something of a red flag). But she doesn’t really make many decisions under her own steam – rather, she’s presented with a series of choices where her only other option is death. She does change over the course of the story, but it’s poorly handled – she changes so rapidly it’s as if a switch has been flipped – and she doesn’t really have any weaknesses. In fact, she doesn’t really influence the plot at all – she has so much help from outside forces (such as the Huntsman rescuing her, her own innate magical powers and her royal blood) that she doesn’t really need to do anything. To be perfectly frank, a limp dishcloth could drive the plot forward if it received all the help Kristen Stewart did.

DAMN RIGHT I DID (image: memegenerator.com)
DAMN RIGHT I DID (image: memegenerator.com)

When it comes to gender stereotypes she’s slightly better off, but not by much. On the one hand, she becomes a strong leader who leads her army into battle and takes back her kingdom, but on the other hand, the plot makes so much of her goodness, sweetness and purity – and gives her so much help – that we never actually see her make any of the choices a leader has to make. This makes her seem like much more of a pretty figurehead than an actual warrior. We don’t see a lot more from her relationships with other female characters, either. She bonds with the nice ones, and is clearly set up as a contrast to the evil queen, but these relationships aren’t explored in any kind of depth. In short, this version of Snow White isn’t anywhere near as strong as she’s set up to be.

FINAL SCORE: 4/10

 

So that’s my analysis of Snow White! Long story short, much like Cinderella, the problems that most of these adaptations have often stems from the original fairy tale – namely, that it was so tied up with the morality of things like vanity, appearances and ‘goodness’ as a virtue that the characters don’t go much beyond set pieces. Modern adaptations have tried to work around this, and some have succeeded, but only when they stop treating Snow White like the pinnacle of feminine virtue and like an actual human being.

Next week, I’ll be returning to my original format and looking at Gravity Falls. Mabel, I’m coming for you.

 

And if you’re looking for all my posts on Strong Female Characters, you can find them here. Also, I have an FAQ now!

Strong Female Characters: Lyra Belacqua

For those of you that don’t know, Lyra is the main character of Philip Pullman’s ground-breaking trilogy, His Dark Materials. The story centres around Lyra, a twelve-year-old girl who is drawn into a war between several parallel universes when she prevents the assassination of her uncle. The books were incredibly successful – one of which became the first-ever children’s book longlisted for the Man Booker Prize – and were universally praised for the ways in which they dealt with love, religion and difficult scientific and theological concepts. Lyra herself is at the centre of all this, and has become one of Pullman’s most popular – and complex – characters.

But does she measure up to the hype? Let’s find out – but watch out for spoilers!

 

NOTE: Just so we’re clear, I’ll be basing my analysis on the original trilogy by Philip Pullman. I won’t be looking at the film of The Golden Compass, and I’ll only be briefly referencing Pullman’s additional stories about Lyra as a teenager and young adult.

 

  1. Does the character shape her own destiny? Does she actively try to change her situation and if not, why not?

Lyra’s destiny in a larger sense actually presents the reader with a really interesting (and difficult) philosophical question. From the very beginning of the series, we find out that Lyra is destined to save not just her world, but billions of other parallel universes too. Many other characters know this, and try to help and hinder her in their own ways. However, the only catch is that Lyra can’t actually know that she is the subject of such a prophecy, or it will never come true.

Lyra is thus at the centre of a philosophical quandary that scholars have been debating for years: the tug of war between Fate and Free Will. It is Lyra’s ~*Destiny*~ to save everyone, but she won’t be able to save everyone if she knows that this is what she’s prophesised to do. She can only fulfil her destiny by acting of her own volition – not by acting to carry out the prophecy. This forces the readers to ask themselves what’s really guiding Lyra through the story. Does she truly carry out her own free will, or is her free will the manifestation of Fate itself?

Please don't ask me to come up with an answer to this question that's been baffling philosophers and theologians for centuries. (image: giphy.com)
Please don’t ask me to come up with an answer to this question that’s been baffling philosophers and theologians for centuries. (image: giphy.com)

For my part, I’m inclined to come down on the side of free will. From the very beginning of the story Lyra is established as a very independent character – we constantly see her deciding to track down her friends, find out the truth and get away from those who would do her harm. Furthermore, I think this interpretation sits better with the overall tone of the story and Pullman’s own humanist beliefs, as so much of the plot of His Dark Materials revolves around individuals shaping their own destiny without reference to a higher power. I’ll be generous and give her the point.

SCORE SO FAR: 1

 

  1. Does she have her own goals, beliefs and hobbies? Did she come up with them on her own?

Lyra’s hobbies are touched upon in the series, but treated more as an expression of her personality rather than as pastimes she enjoys. She’s a bit of a tomboy, and enjoys fighting other children, getting dirty, and exploring places she generally shouldn’t be.

Her goals are a little more complicated. Even though she’s been prophesised to save the world by leading humanity into a second ‘fall from Eden’, this isn’t really what she sets out to do. She sets out to find her kidnapped friend and bring him home, or to find out the truth about Dust (the mysterious substance that all the parallel worlds revolve around), or to restore the bear-king Iorek Byrnison to his rightful throne. Her goals change from book to book, depending on the situation she’s in.

Her beliefs, however, are a little more constant. She values the bond with her daemon more than anything else (for the uninitiated, a daemon is essentially a human’s soul that lives outside the body and can take animal form). She believes her parents were wrong to act as they did, and actively goes about trying to rectify their mistakes. She believes that children can never be as bad as adults, but after she meets the children of Cittagazze, ends up radically re-assessing this view. Most crucially of all, she believes that Dust is a force for good, and sets about trying to stop other people from putting an end to it.

SCORE SO FAR: 2

 

  1. Is her character consistent? Do her personality or skills change as the plot demands?

Lyra is a very consistent character. She’s fiercely independent, loves spinning tall tales, is a bit of a tomboy and while not well-educated, is very intelligent and picks things up quickly. She’s also a natural leader, brave and determined, who is intensely loyal to her friends.

Her skills run along a similar vein. Lyra is a very good liar, and uses her natural skill to get her out of (and into) trouble. But what’s much more interesting is her ability to read the alethiometer, a device which can answer any question truthfully. It’s established that this is a device that adults require years of study to use properly, but Lyra, as a pre-pubescent child, can read it almost intuitively. Lyra is the only person in the entire trilogy who can read an alethiometer without years of study and an enormous symbol guide – but only until she hits puberty. Then, she completely loses the ability to read it and must learn how to do it in the same way as everyone else.

Three cheers for mediocrity! (image: giphy.com)
Three cheers for mediocrity! (image: giphy.com)

It’s this that stops Lyra’s ability from becoming unrealistic. The series establishes that the alethiometer is read using Dust – the mysterious particles that can be found across multiple universes. Children and adults react to Dust differently, and thus when Lyra starts becoming an adult, her ability to read the alethiometer changes accordingly. It’s established in later novellas that Lyra learns how to read the alethiometer again, but this time she does it the hard way. I’ll give her the point.

SCORE SO FAR: 3

 

  1. Can you describe her in one short sentence without mentioning her love life, her physical appearance, or the words ‘strong female character’?

A wild, determined and brave young girl goes looking for her missing friend and, in the process, ends up changing the fate of existence as she knows it.

SCORE SO FAR: 4

 

  1. Does she make decisions that aren’t influenced by her love life?

Lyra’s love life is actually a pretty interesting part of her story. I mentioned earlier that Lyra is the subject of a super-important prophecy that will decide the fate of not just mankind, but every single being across multiple different universes. Lyra is the second incarnation of Eve, destined to lead a second fall from Eden, and in doing so will bring knowledge and understanding to several different parallel worlds. She can’t know that she is doing this, but in order to do so she has to fall in love and, it’s implied, go through her first sexual experience.

Essentially, the resolution of the entire plot of His Dark Materials depends on Lyra getting a boyfriend. However, what’s really great about the way that this is handled is that this really isn’t Lyra’s goal. She spends most of the series trying to save the people she cares about, trying to find out the truth about Dust, or trying to get away from the incredibly creepy Church that’s in power in Lyra’s world.

It's even creepier than this one, which is LITERALLY MADE OF BONES. (image: churchpop.com)
It’s even creepier than this one, which is LITERALLY MADE OF BONES. (image: churchpop.com)

Lyra’s love life is central to the resolution of her story. Without it, she could never fulfil the prophecy and bring knowledge and understanding back to mankind as a larger whole. But it doesn’t really influence her decisions at all. Lyra’s first love grows very slowly, isn’t often treated as the main focus of her story, and it’s allowed to blossom very naturally while other elements of the plot take the story forward. Lyra’s first experiences of love and sex are treated with a kind of quiet dignity which isn’t always seen in young adult stories, and her agency and independence as a character isn’t really compromised because of it. I’ll give her the point.

SCORE SO FAR: 5

 

  1. Does she develop over the course of the story?

Lyra develops really well over the course of the story. She starts out as a scrappy, impulsive tomboy, and as the trilogy progresses she grows into a young woman with a much more complex and subtle understanding of love, power, and life in general. She’s travelled through countless worlds, developed a relationship with her mother, survived a few assassination attempts and had her first experience of love – more than enough to change somebody’s character. By the end of His Dark Materials, Lyra has grown up into a much wiser, more mature character.

SCORE SO FAR: 6

 

  1. Does she have a weakness?

What’s interesting about Lyra is that her propensity to tell lies isn’t portrayed as a weakness, but as an outpouring of her rich imagination and quick mind. But that’s not to say that she doesn’t have weaknesses at all. She’s stubborn, reckless, she tends to act before she thinks, she very rarely admits that she can’t do something and she has a tendency to get caught up in her own stories. These are all weaknesses that actively hold her back and put her in trouble as the story progresses, so I’ll give her the point.

SCORE SO FAR: 7

 

  1. Does she influence the plot without getting captured or killed?

In His Dark Materials, Lyra is twelve and thirteen years old – as such, she doesn’t always have a lot of say in her own movements, like many other child characters. When she decides to pursue her own goals she can’t always just wander off in search of them – although she does end up doing that once or twice. More often than not, she ends up having to rely on someone else to take her where she wants to go.

It's a bit like this. (image: giphy.com)
It’s a bit like this. (image: giphy.com)

But that’s really the extent of any limitations on her agency. Most of the time Lyra is a character with a real impact on the plot. She might not always get there under her own steam, but she initiates the search for her missing friend, she finds the instruments she needs, and she goes down into the land of the dead to free the souls trapped there. She does get captured quite a few times, but she almost always manages to find her own way out of trouble, whether that’s by manipulating her captors into making a mistake or just flat-out running away.

SCORE SO FAR: 8

 

  1. How does she relate to stereotypes about gender?

Lyra’s a very positive character in terms of gender stereotypes. She’s a scrappy, impulsive young girl who fights the other children, lies to almost everyone she meets, goes around caked in dirt and isn’t above sneaking a cigarette or a little bit of wine if that’s what she fancies. Yet she isn’t portrayed as a ‘bad girl’ because of this, and her behaviour isn’t depicted as a bad habit that she needs to fix. Pullman consistently treats Lyra with kindness and respect, showing her behaviour as childish exuberance more than anything else.

This is actually really unusual in a young female character. In fiction traditionally aimed at young girls, the little girls who fight, lie, steal and have dirty knees are almost universally portrayed as ‘naughty’. Whereas young male characters can still be seen as ‘good boys’ if they get a bit mucky and have a scrap now and then, young female characters aren’t always seen as ‘good girls’ unless they’re quiet, good and clean. I’m really talking about some of the more old-fashioned stories here, but there’s no denying that these tropes still have an effect on fiction today.

What’s more, Lyra’s first experiences with love and sex are treated as something beautiful and tender rather than as something to be ashamed of. She’s still a very young girl when this happens, but her relationship with Will is treated as nothing short of true love. They’re a real partnership, never once undermining each other, but their relationship doesn’t eclipse everything else that they care about. Because they are literally from different worlds – and people can’t survive for a very long time outside the world in which they were born into – they realise that they can never be together once they must close the passages between worlds. They’re devastated by this, but agree that keeping the passages open would put too many people at risk. So – with remarkable maturity for a couple of thirteen-year-olds – they agree to go back to their own worlds and live full lives, only marking their fledgling relationship by standing in the same spot in their different universes once a year. They both recognise that even though they love each other – and may well never find love with anyone else – there are some things more important than love. They set their feelings aside and do what’s best for humanity, trampling all over my poor, battered heart in the process.

I've just got something in my eye... (image: giphy.com)
I’ve just got something in my eye… (image: giphy.com)

Lyra is consistently portrayed as a character who follows her own path, in line with Pullman’s own beliefs on free will. Her tomboy habits aren’t shown as a bad thing, but as something that Lyra really wants to do for herself. In the novellas detailing her later life, this trend continues – we see Lyra becoming a dedicated scholar and pursuing an academic career, which is established to be unusual for a woman in her world. I’ll give her the point.

SCORE SO FAR: 9

 

  1. How does she relate to other female characters?

Most of Lyra’s relationships tend to be with male characters, but that’s not to say that she doesn’t have any female friends. She finds it very easy to make friends with other children, and becomes the unacknowledged leader of whichever group of girls she happens to find herself in on a regular basis. She looks up to the witch, Serafina Pekkala, she sees Ma Costa as like a mother to her, she pities and is a little afraid of Angela, the girl from Cittagazze, and she ends up becoming good friends with Dr Mary Malone, who ends up becoming a part of the reason why she falls in love with Will.

But her most interesting relationship by far is with her mother, Mrs Coulter. For much of her life Lyra believed her parents were dead, and when she first meets Mrs Coulter didn’t guess at their relation. Charmed and fascinated by the wealthy socialite, she’s adopted by her, but soon realises that Mrs Coulter has been kidnapping children to perform experiments on them. Horrified by what Mrs Coulter is doing and finally aware of her innate cruelty, Lyra runs away and spends most of the novel trying to stop or escape her mother’s clutches. Mrs Coulter isn’t exactly fond of Lyra at first – she finds her too grubby, wild and untameable – but eventually grows to love her. Lyra never fully reciprocates this, what with all the child-mutilation her mother got up to, but she does acknowledge the care Mrs Coulter tried to give her, even if she had to drug Lyra into unconsciousness to get her to stay still long enough to take it.

Parenting - you're doing it right. (image: giphy.com)
Parenting – you’re doing it right. (image: giphy.com)

The result is a very complex relationship that evolves over the course of the series, with Lyra coming to understand a little of Mrs Coulter’s desire to be a mother to her, but never fully forgiving her for the way she acted.

FINAL SCORE: 10/10

 

Congratulations, Philip Pullman! Lyra is a well-rounded, consistent character with a range of strengths and weaknesses. She develops throughout her story, is a real force on the plot, has a range of different relationships with a range of different female characters and raises interesting questions about not just gender stereotypes but the nature of free will. She’s certainly passed my test!

Next week, it’s the sixtieth post on Strong Female Characters! How time flies. I’ll be going back to my comparison format for that one and looking at another classic character. Snow White, I’m coming for you.

 

And if you’re looking for all my posts on Strong Female Characters, you can find them here.