Strong Female Characters

Strong Female Characters: Jessica Jones

Happy 2016, blog-followers! Now that I’m finished with the business of Christmas, New Year and slowly but surely getting older, let’s get back to business.

For those of you that don’t know, Jessica Jones is the lead character in Marvel’s phenomenally successful Netflix series, Jessica Jones. Set in the Marvel Cinematic Universe – by which I mean that one corner of New York that all Marvel stories seem to take place in – the plot follows Jessica’s efforts to take down an incredibly creepy supervillain who happens to be her ex-boyfriend. The show has been met with almost universal praise, particularly for its complex portrayal of relationship abuse and PTSD. Jessica herself is no exception, and has been hailed by critics and fans alike as one of Marvel’s best heroines.

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

 

NOTE: I’ll be focusing on the Netflix show, rather than the Marvel comics. Due to the nature of the show, I will be discussing sexual assault, relationship abuse and extreme violence all throughout this post.

 

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

Much of Jessica’s story arc focuses around her regaining control over her life. She starts the series as a young woman who is still living in fear of her abuser, and much of her life seems to be defined by the relationship she’s still trying to escape. However, as the series goes on she moves past her fear and actively starts working to make the world a better place – mainly by trying to stop her ex, Kilgrave. She takes the lead in every way she can, whether she’s solving her PI cases, trying to protect the people she cares about, or simply punching her psycho ex-boyfriend in the face.

DO IT FOR FEMINISM (image: tumblr.com)
DO IT FOR FEMINISM (image: tumblr.com)

Much of her character arc does revolve around her terrible, awful relationship with her ex-boyfriend, however. Jessica had absolutely no control over this – literally, as Kilgrave has mind control powers that can force people to obey his every command. However, she tries not to let this define her. Jessica does focus on taking Kilgrave down, but she doesn’t just do it out of revenge for what he did to her – she’s also doing it to stop him from continuing to influence other people. The series as a whole focuses on Jessica trying to redefine herself after her relationship with Kilgrave and regaining control over her own life – whether that’s through establishing herself as a PI, starting up a new romantic relationship, or reconnecting with the people she loves. Her overall journey really centres around breaking the control that Kilgrave had over her – in more ways than one – so she definitely passes this round.

SCORE SO FAR: 1

 

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

Jessica’s goals are very clearly defined. She wants to stop Kilgrave – first by bringing him to justice, and once she realised that would be impossible, by killing him – but she also wants to protect the people she loves and help the other people that he’s wronged. This goal drives her all throughout the series.

We don’t see all that much of her hobbies – although it is established that she’s a functioning alcoholic – but her beliefs are also very well-established. She believes that she’s better off alone – she doesn’t like being too close to people because she’s worried that Kilgrave will hurt them to get to her, and she makes a conscious choice to keep her friends at arm’s length. She believes she’s responsible for the death of her family and has done since childhood – no matter how irrational this may be. She has a pretty pessimistic outlook on life, and really doesn’t care about other people’s feelings, but deep down she does still want to help people. That’s a range of goals and beliefs that she sticks to all throughout the series, so I’m giving her the point.

SCORE SO FAR: 2

 

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

Jessica is a very consistent character. She’s short-tempered, acerbic, anti-social, tough, but deep down she’s a good person struggling with a lot of guilt. When she’s first introduced it’s clear that the more negative aspects of her personality have been exacerbated by Kilgrave’s abuse, but even in flashbacks of her life before she met him, we see her personality is largely consistent.

Her skills follow along the same lines. Like Kilgrave, she too has superpowers – but hers are the powers of physical strength and a shaky grasp of flight. Physical strength comes very naturally to her – we see her picking this up very quickly after an accident she had as a teenager – although it’s clear that she still has to put in a certain amount of effort to keep her powers under control.

And even then they have their limitations. (image: giphy.com)
And even then they have their limitations. (image: giphy.com)

She’s not so good at flight, however – in the comics it’s made clear that this is an ability she always struggled with, and in the show it’s always described as ‘controlled falling’. Both her personality and skills are consistent all throughout the series, so I’m giving 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 aggressive, short-tempered PI struggling with an alcohol addiction and PTSD is determined to protect her friends – even if it means facing her worst fears.

SCORE SO FAR: 4

 

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

Jessica does make a few decisions influenced by her love life, but only in her interactions with Luke Cage, which don’t actually take up all that much of the plot. The bulk of her decisions are influenced by her desire to stop Kilgrave. In some respects, I suppose you could argue that all Jessica’s decisions are influenced by her love life, as the bulk of her story arc revolves around the fact that she was in a really terrible relationship. However, I don’t think that this argument holds water.

There’s no getting away from the fact that Kilgrave manipulated Jessica into dating him. It’s confirmed in a flashback to the moment they met – from the second that he opened his mouth, Jessica had no choice but to obey everything he said. This isn’t love, it’s mind control. Jessica eventually realises this – not having encountered mind control before, it takes her a while to work out what’s going on – but when she does, she becomes horrified and disgusted by Kilgrave’s behaviour. There was a part of her that was aware of his control, but unfortunately, awareness alone was not enough to break his hold over her, and she spent however many months forced to obey him no matter how much she hated it.

Would you, Sir Ian? (image: giphy.com)
Would you, Sir Ian? (image: giphy.com)

The show directly states that Jessica had no choice in their relationship from the moment of its inception – everything that happened in it was the direct result of Kilgrave’s mind control. Jessica didn’t consent to any single part of it – whether it was Kilgrave telling her what to wear, what to eat or how to look at him – and thus, every single sexual interaction they had was rape.

With this in mind, it becomes clear that even though Jessica Jones is about a woman moving on from a past relationship, it is not about her love life – it’s about reclaiming her own identity after a relationship that was so abusive she barely had any idea who she was any more. Most of what motivates Jessica through the series is fear and anger, not love – fear that she will put into that situation again, and anger that she had to go through it in the first place. I can’t really describe Jessica’s relationship with Kilgrave as part of her love life given that she herself describes it as repeated rape on multiple levels – that’d be like hitting someone with a spade and calling it gardening.

SCORE SO FAR: 5

 

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

Over the course of the series, Jessica confronts her fear of Kilgrave, starts making more of an effort to connect with her friends, starts working with other people rather than on her own, and finally starts expressing her emotions to the people she cares about – although mostly that’s only when they’re unconscious. That’s some solid development on more than one count, so I’ll give her the point.

SCORE SO FAR: 6

 

  1. Does she have a weakness?

Jessica has plenty of weaknesses. She struggles with an alcohol addiction, she pushes her friends away when all they want to do is help, she’s prone to acting rashly and lashing out. She’s aggressive, she’s short-tempered, she doesn’t know when she needs to look after herself, she can be really nasty for no apparent reason, and she just doesn’t care about other people’s feelings. She’s got plenty of flaws that really hold her back – some of which she manages to overcome, some of which she doesn’t – so she passes this round.

SCORE SO FAR: 7

 

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

Jessica is a driving force on the plot. She propels the story forward at every turn, whether she’s investigating a case, tracking down a lead or chasing after Kilgrave. She passes this round with flying colours.

SCORE SO FAR: 8

 

  1. How does she relate to stereotypes about gender?

Jessica defies gender stereotypes in several ways – we’ll start with some of the more common ones. She’s aggressive, physically strong, has trouble connecting with people on an emotional level and pushes people away to keep them safe – these are all traits far more commonly seen in heroes than heroines. It’s actually extremely unusual to see a conventionally attractive young woman play the role of the grizzled, hard-boiled detective – complete with all the emotional baggage and substance abuse this particular cliché usually carries with it.

You know, like this guy. (image: ladypepperbox.wordpress.com)
You know, like this guy. (image: ladypepperbox.wordpress.com)

However, what makes Jessica such a really ground-breaking character – and what makes Jessica Jones such a compelling and interesting show – is the way that the series handles sexual assault, rape, and PTSD. Jessica is a rape survivor. Kilgrave, her ex-boyfriend and rapist, doesn’t fit into the mould of the ‘traditional’ rapist – he’s good-looking, charming, polite, and he didn’t drag her off into some alleyway on a dark night. He raped her repeatedly using manipulation and control, but was never actually physically violent towards her – as I discussed earlier, all his sexual assaults were committed using mind control. Nevertheless, the show never once undermines Jessica’s experiences by suggesting that his behaviour was somehow ‘better’ just because he wasn’t physically violent. Jessica’s experiences are still treated as traumatic, and Kilgrave is still portrayed as a near-monstrous human being, and rightfully so. This is very rarely seen in all kinds of media, as abuse and rape without a physically violent element to them are often ignored in the stories we read.

What’s more, the fact that the story focuses on Jessica’s struggle to come to terms with what happens to her while showcasing her strength is truly ground-breaking. Jessica is shown to be physically strong, tough, aggressive and doesn’t suffer fools gladly – yet she still has flashbacks that leave her shaking, still experiences fear that makes her want to drop everything and leave the country. She is shown to be vulnerable and this does not undermine her strength. Unlike many other shows, Jessica Jones says in no uncertain terms that rape survivors are not weak, and that the trauma that sexual assault can cause is not the result of some kind of flaw in their character. Her overcoming her PTSD is not the only element to the plot, whereas in many other stories, a rape survivor learning to move past their trauma is the plot.

Jessica Jones has been praised for its highly realistic portrayal of recovering from sexual assault and rape, and for showing that the trauma this can cause isn’t a sign of weakness. Jessica is an unashamedly strong character in every sense of the word, and having her deal with rape-related PTSD shows in no uncertain terms that this is a normal reaction to a highly traumatic event. Most fictional depictions of rape survivors coming to terms with their experiences aren’t nearly so nuanced, often only allowing the characters to be strong when they’re effectively ‘over’ their experiences. Jessica Jones shows that women who’ve been sexually assaulted can be strong and still be coming to terms with what happened to them – the two don’t have to cancel each other out.

SCORE SO FAR: 9

 

  1. How does she relate to other female characters?

Jessica has several relationships with a wide range of other female characters. She’s disdainful of her weird neighbour, Robyn. She feels incredibly angry with Kilgrave’s mother, but ultimately doesn’t hold her responsible for her son’s behaviour. She hates the fact that she has to depend on the lawyer, Jeri Hogarth, for work, and frequently treats her with both contempt and grudging respect. But by far her most interesting relationships are with Hope Shlottman and Trish Walker.

Hope Shlottman is another one of Kilgrave’s victims, who he used to get to Jessica. She’s a very young girl who has her future completely ripped away from her by his actions, and Jessica feels largely responsible. She wants to protect Hope from him while feeling incredibly guilty that she hasn’t been able to do more, and even though it doesn’t come naturally to her, she makes a point of supporting Hope, going out of her way to support her decisions, get her what she needs and provide some level of emotional support.

She's just really, REALLY bad at it. (image: tumblr.com)
She’s just really, REALLY bad at it. (image: tumblr.com)

Trish Walker is Jessica’s childhood best friend and adopted sister. They’ve fallen out of touch at the start of the series – mainly thanks to Kilgrave – and spend the rest of the series reconnecting and growing closer together. Jessica spends most of their time on-screen trying to protect Trish, while realising that she might not need quite as much protection as she used to – a leftover from Trish’s childhood with her abusive mother.

All of these are very well-written, realistic relationships that have a real impact on Jessica’s character, her decisions and the plot as a larger whole. These relationships are complex, nuanced, varied, and they change as the series goes on – who could ask for more?

FINAL SCORE: 10/10

 

What a way to kick off 2016! Jessica is a really brilliant character – she’s in control of her own storyline, she has a distinct and consistent personality, she has flaws that hold her back, she has a range of relationships with a wide range of other female characters and she relates to gender stereotypes in a way that is actually pretty ground-breaking.

I’ve been hard on the Marvel Cinematic Universe ladies before, but Jessica has really knocked it out of the park. She is the proof that Marvel can – when it chooses – give just the same amount of time, care and development to its female characters as it does to its heroes. It’s really encouraging to see a character like this from someone like Marvel – and I hope we see a lot more of them!

Next week, I’ll be looking at The Lord of the Rings. Eowyn, 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

Strong Female Characters: Peggy Carter

For those of you that don’t know, Agent Peggy Carter is another character from the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Originally introduced as Captain America’s love interest in, well, Captain America, the character proved so popular that Marvel went on to develop her own TV series (and prove that original titles are not their strong point) called Agent Carter. The plot of both the film and the TV show is largely the same: special agent Peggy Carter must stop those dastardly Nazis/Communists from unleashing whatever superpower-related horrors they’ve cooked up, only in the movie she gets a musclebound Chris Evans to help her out. The film was a smash hit, and the TV show has received high praise from the critics – most of it surrounding its portrayal of a woman trying to carve out a career in a highly male-dominated industry in post-WW2 America. Peggy herself is one of Marvel’s many ‘Strong Female Characters’, and is frequently held up as a paragon of Marvel’s feminist credentials.

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 focussing on the Marvel Cinematic Universe’s interpretation of the character. I know that her character is a lot more detailed in the comics, but as much as I’d like to read them I simply don’t have time.

 

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

When talking about Peggy Carter, it’s very easy to draw comparisons with one of Marvel’s most recognisable female characters: Black Widow. In this respect, they’re very similar: both are special government agents who signed up for highly secretive, highly dangerous work. Both are clearly accustomed to having their lives revolve around the missions that they are sent on, and ultimately both of them take their orders from someone else.

The real difference between the two of them is the way that their gender (and their respective time periods) affects their work. Black Widow doesn’t always have an easy time at S.H.I.E.L.D., but her competency as an agent – and her loyalty to the organisation – are never seriously questioned. Peggy’s, on the other hand, is. In both the film and the TV series her superiors doubt that she is capable of doing her job because of her gender, and assume that her loyalties can be easily swayed if somebody gets her to fall in love with them. As a consequence of this she has to work twice as hard to prove her competence and – particularly in the TV show – has to go behind her bosses’ backs if she wants to conduct an investigation on her own. Peggy’s reaction to the sexism she has to deal with makes her a much more proactive character, so she passes this round.

SCORE SO FAR: 1

 

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

We don’t really get to see a lot of Peggy’s hobbies. As with Black Widow, her life as a special agent seems to consume a lot of her time, and she’s always portrayed as a very career-focused person. Her goals and beliefs are another story, and are really fleshed out in Agent Carter. Much more time is spent establishing the fact that Peggy desperately wants to be treated as a competent agent, assigned her own cases and to have her opinions heard and respected by the other members of her team. This is what drives her through the plot – and it also factors into her beliefs. We can infer simply from her choice of career that Peggy believes in democracy, freedom etc., but one of the things she really believes in is herself, as summarised in the most inspirational gif ever:

YOU'RE GODDAMN RIGHT SHE DOES. There's something in my eye. (image: giphy.com)
YOU’RE GODDAMN RIGHT SHE DOES. There’s something in my eye. (image: giphy.com)

You could bounce rocks off Peggy’s self-confidence. She knows that she is bloody good at what she does – regardless of what anyone else may think, say or do – so much so that she doesn’t need other people to tell her she did a good job. She firmly believes that what she’s doing is right, and that’s a compelling trait in any character.

SCORE SO FAR: 2

 

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

For the most part, Peggy is a reasonably consistent character. She’s intelligent, resourceful, determined to prove herself, keeps calm in a crisis and knows how to take care of herself. It’s also established that she’s a highly skilled agent: she knows her way around a number of different weapons and is fully capable of bludgeoning grown men into a pulp if they cross her. The only time her character really falters is in this scene from Captain America:

 

For background: Peggy and Steve aren’t actually involved at this point, and when she sees him kissing another woman she completely loses it. When she fired that gun at him she had no idea what would happen: she had no way of knowing if the shield could stop the bullets, or if the bullets would ricochet off and hurt someone else, or if everything would all turn out fine. In short, she risked the lives of everyone in that lab – which included irreplacably intelligent scientists as well as her superpowered boyfriend – just to prove a point. This is played for laughs, but it goes against everything we know about her character and is actually a terrible call for a woman who’s trying to prove that her womanly emotions don’t affect her capacity to do her job. I’ll give her half a point.

SCORE SO FAR: 2.5

 

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

A highly trained special agent, both determined and resourceful, must use everything she has in order to for her skills to be acknowledged.

SCORE SO FAR: 3.5

 

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

Most of the time Peggy is pretty focused on her missions, whether that’s chasing down Nazis in Captain America or chasing down Communists in her TV show. In Captain America, she’s very firmly in the role of love interest, so it does affect her decisions (particularly in the scene that shall not be named). In Agent Carter, it gets a lot more interesting.

In the TV show it’s very well-established that Peggy has absolutely no interest in pursuing a relationship with anybody after losing Steve. She’s still grieving – as are most of the people who knew him – and as a result, throws herself into her work. There’s a lot of pressure on her to settle down and start a family, particularly with the return of so many GIs from Europe (who then kicked all the women out of their jobs, FYI). She certainly isn’t short of offers, but she turns them all down because she just doesn’t feel ready for another relationship. At the same time, when she discovers that Howard Stark effectively tricked her into stealing the last sample of Steve’s blood – which would allow him to recreate the supersoldier formula – she completely freaks out, cuts off all contact with him and refuses to hand over the sample. Her love life is still affecting her decisions and emotions at the same time as she is trying to resist it.

I should employ Tom Hiddleston to express all my feelings. (image: giphy.com)
I should employ Tom Hiddleston to express all my feelings. (image: giphy.com)

Unlike many other characters I’ve looked at on this blog, it isn’t a current love interest that affects Peggy’s decisions. She’s still grieving for Steve after their brief romance, and it’s hinted in her cameo in The Winter Soldier that she still held a torch for him even though she does eventually move on. However, her grief is realistic, it has a minimal effect on the rest of her decisions, and it’s handled with a level of sensitivity and tact that you don’t always see in media with so many explosions. I’ll give her half a point – mainly because of that scene in Captain America – but the way her love life is handled in Agent Carter definitely redeems her.

SCORE SO FAR: 4

 

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

We don’t see Peggy develop at all in Captain America – she’s pretty much only there to blow stuff up. Once again, in Agent Carter it’s a different story. Over the course of the first series we see her gradually come to terms with her grief for Steve and eventually start to move on. We also see some non-romantic development too. When her roommate is killed, Peggy initially decides to resist forming friendships in case they are targeted by her enemies. She soon comes to realise that she can’t cut herself off from emotional support, and starts opening up to her friends a little more. That’s some solid development in more than one area of her life, so I’ll give her the point.

SCORE SO FAR: 5

 

  1. Does she have a weakness?

Peggy doesn’t really have much of a weakness at all. The things that hold her back are either completely understandable – such as her grief after listening to her boyfriend sacrifice himself – or entirely external, such as the sexism of her colleagues. Of course, she makes mistakes, but these are often treated very favourably by the script and aren’t always the result of her own flaws. Her shooting at Steve’s shield is played for laughs and used to illustrate how ‘feisty’ she is. When she’s fooled by the Russian double agent, she’s the first one on her team to realise what’s happened and must convince them all of the truth. She just doesn’t have a serious character flaw that she has to work against, so I simply can’t give her the point.

SCORE SO FAR: 5

 

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

In Captain America, Peggy doesn’t get much of an opportunity to influence the plot. As with Black Widow, she’s kicking ass and taking names, but she does so on somebody else’s orders and (usually) as part of a much larger task force. She has her moments – like when she helps Steve sneak into enemy territory – but much of the film’s focus is on Captain Beefcake.

Not that I object to that... (image: justjared.com)
Not that I object to that… (image: justjared.com)

In Agent Carter, Peggy is the plot. The show focuses entirely on her efforts to uncover a secret Communist plot (as well as to prove herself to her colleagues and to move on from Steve). She drives the plot forward at every turn, whether she’s working out her next move or punching out a bad guy. She does get manipulated more than once – both by the Communist agents and by Howard Stark, who has not been entirely truthful with her – but this doesn’t detract from her agency as a character. I’ll be generous and give her the point.

SCORE SO FAR: 6

 

  1. How does she relate to stereotypes about gender?

How Peggy relates to gender stereotypes really depends on what piece of media you’re looking at. As I think I’ve already established, her character gets a lot more time and attention from the screenwriters in Agent Carter than it does in Captain America. Regardless, there are a few universal similarities in the way they treat her character.

In terms of personality, Peggy pretty much disregards all established gender stereotypes about women. She’s brave, she’s resourceful, she’s intelligent, she’s capable of grinding grown men into paste, she isn’t fussy, she knows her way around weapons – I could go on. The point is that none of these traits are things you would ordinarily associate with women, and she possesses them all without sacrificing her femininity. Often she actively uses this against her many sexist opponents – much like Black Widow, she lets them underestimate her and strikes when their guard is down.

DO IT FOR FEMINISM (image: tumblr.com)
DO IT FOR FEMINISM (image: tumblr.com)

Unfortunately, the way that her femininity is portrayed can be kind of problematic. What makes Peggy feminine are her looks and her emotions. She’s always well-dressed and well-groomed, with immaculate red lipstick and nails, even though we have absolutely no indication that she actually enjoys this kind of stuff. She loses control both when her relationship with Steve goes badly, and when someone brings it up in the TV show. She’s also relegated to a support role more than once, where she has to persuade a male character to act on her behalf: both Captain America and Agent Carter end with Peggy sobbing into a radio, trying to convince a man not to crash-land his plane. This means that even though she’s not doing improbably sexy gymnastics in every fight scene like Black Widow, despite all her skills as an agent she’s often treated as a potential love interest more than a character. This criticism applies much more to Captain America than it does to Agent Carter, but it’s certainly present in the TV show – albeit more in the way that other characters treat her.

Much like Buffy, Peggy comes up against a lot of characters that I like to call ‘straw sexists’. Essentially, these are characters that are written into the story to spout a bunch of sexist nonsense so we can all watch Peggy proving them wrong. They exist just so she can knock them down, and it’s extremely entertaining to watch her do it. However, this isn’t only something that can be said about her smacking people in the face with heavy objects – it also applies to much of her character, too.

Peggy exists to knock down gender stereotypes. She’s a brave, capable, resourceful woman carving out a path for herself in a man’s world, but she has no flaws and has no real development outside of the main plotline. She’s held up as a paragon of almost every virtue – she kicks butt, but she has feelings too, but they don’t affect her too much and by the way, did I mention she’s also really pretty? – and this in itself is problematic. The writers have put her on a pedestal as the perfect woman, and even though this particular pedestal involves smacking dudes over the head with blunt objects, it’s still nothing new in the way that women are treated in fiction.

SCORE SO FAR: 6.5

 

  1. How does she relate to other female characters?

For a character that spends a substantial amount of her screen time with men, Peggy does have a lot of relationships with other female characters – most of which are from Agent Carter. She’s friends with her roommate, Colleen, but must hide her real job from her and eventually kinda-sorta gets her killed. She initially pushes away the waitress, Angie, as a result of this – but then becomes friends with her. She has to pretend to be a respectable young woman for her landlady, Miriam, while simultaneously despising her and keeping the true nature of her work a secret. And of course, she’s completely fooled by – and must defeat – the Soviet double agent, who poses as a harmless girl. These are a wide range of relationships with a wide range of different characters, so she passes this round.

FINAL SCORE: 7.5/10

 

Agent Carter is a brave, resourceful agent who is an active player in her own story and develops over the course of the narrative, but she still hasn’t passed my test. Ultimately, what really let her down – aside from the rather half-hearted way the script treats her character in Captain America – is the fact that the writers so clearly built her up to be a stereotype-smashing character. In denying her a real weakness, they’re stopping her from becoming a properly fleshed-out character.

For me, this really exemplifies the Marvel Cinematic Universe’s problems with writing women. I’m sure the writers have only the best of intentions, but it seems like when they write their female characters they aren’t trying to make them anything other than ‘strong’. In writing these perfect women – who have no flaws, can handle anything that’s thrown at them and can keep up with the endless parade of superheroes we see every summer – they aren’t actually developing their characters properly. They aren’t even writing real women, for that matter.

The Marvel Cinematic Universe is often praised for its characterisation – most of which is actually from the original comics, and doesn’t always make it into the films. Marvel’s many male characters can be anything they like: Tony Stark is arrogant, Captain America is self-sacrificing, Bruce Banner is a broiling mess of rage and guilt. But Marvel’s female characters are all cast in the same mould. They’re rarely cocky, or standoffish, or exuberant: ‘strong’ is all they will ever be. All that praise doesn’t really apply to the female characters in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. In trying to prove that they can write women, the writers are showing us that they can only write one type of woman – and she’s so perfect that she’s not so different from many of the Disney Princesses.

Next week, I’ll be looking at The Lego Movie. Wyldstyle, I’m coming for you.

 

 

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