Someone recently posted an article entitled “I hate Strong Female Characters” on my facebook page. It talks about the prevalence of “type” female characters in Hollywood and other popular media. Male characters, especially protagonists, tend to be complex, exhibiting psychological and personality traits that are difficult to label as strong or weak, smart or stupid, good or evil. The same is not true of female characters. They tend to fit rigidly into one category or the other, and that’s their gimmick. The “Strong Female Character” is just as reductive as the “Sassy Black Woman” or the “Noble Indian Chief.” It ignores the complexity of humanity, and develops a cultural habit of pigeonholing women both fictional and real.
Today, however, I cracked open my copy of Tennessee Williams’s The Glass Menagerie. The character description of Amanda Wingfield is as follows:
A little woman of great but confused vitality clinging frantically to another time and place. Her characterization must be carefully created, not copied from type. She is not paranoiac, but her life is paranoia. There is much to admire about Amanda, and as much to love and pity as there is to laugh at. Certainly she has endurance and a kind of heroism, and though her foolishness makes her unwittingly cruel at times, there is tenderness in her slight person.
Talk about a real, complex, human character. This gives me hope! Do you have a favorite female character?