Critical Examination: “Empowering” Female Characters

I’m sure by now you all have seen the preview for the new Ghosbusters film.  I did a First Take of if on my site, and you can look that up at your leisure.  Needless to say, I didn’t like it.  Everything was wrong with that trailer.  The CG ghosts in that film looked as bad as the ones in The Haunted Mansion.  Hell, they looked almost as bad as the ghosts in the god-awful remake of The Haunting.  Oh yeah, I went there.  The “jokes” were so bad that I barely cracked a smile throughout the whole thing.  But the biggest thing that bothered me about the trailer – the characters.

Let me make something abundantly clear – I have no problem with the cast being female.  I was hoping that a new Ghostbusters film would have been an honest sequel (because I am sick and tired of these shitty reboots), but whatever.  I would have been fine with it, on one condition – they were good characters.  And that isn’t what we got here.  Here, we got characters who are such cardboard cutouts that the fat chick actually goes through the list to tell you what those cutouts are.  There is the awkward math chick.  You have the awkward mechanic chick.  You have the awkward…fat chick.  Oh, and then they introduce a character who expositions her role – the street-wise black chick.  That’s it.  Not one of these characters is shown to be anything but a single note.

For those who want to say that Ernie Hudson was a black stereotype – you’re wrong.  His role in that film was the most unstereotypical role in that film, because he was meant to be the everyman.  His character was meant to be a stand-in for the audience, reacting to what three clearly-insane characters are getting up to.  That was awesome!  And his reactions to stuff were priceless.  Like the bit about the Twinkie.

I fucking die, every time.  It’s a great line.  But the black chick in this film is the most blatant stereotype I have seen in years.  I hate to agree with the SJWs, but come on!  The worst thing is, people are talking about this new film as if it is a “girl power” movie.  This thought baffles me.  Why?  Because who can see this movie like that?  How are these women empowered?  I think back to some of my favorite female characters, and I think to myself – are they empowered?  Sometimes, no.  Sometimes, their weakness is a character attribute, and that doesn’t always have to be negative.  Sometimes some personal weakness can make a good character.  But what about the ones that I do see as empowered?  What about them fits that category?  Well, let’s take a look at some of my favorite female characters and talk about it.

Ellen Ripley

To be clear, we’re talking about her in the original film, Alien.  While her role in the sequel was awesome, I thought her character in the original film was better.  Let me explain.  She is a member of a crew of over-worked, underpaid deep-space truckers.  She is the second-in-command of her ship, and it’s clear that the crew doesn’t have a lot of respect for her.  But she still takes her job seriously.

When the crew goes off to the alien ship and comes back with one of the team infected with an alien parasite, she has to make a judgment call about whether or not to let them back on the ship.  She chooses not to.  She chooses not to risk the lives of the rest of the crew by letting the parasite back on-board.  The crew is REALLY pissed at her about that, but she stood by her decision.  She takes a lot of shit for it, but the fact is – she was right.  If the robot hadn’t opened the airlock and let them in, then none of what happened in the film would have happened.  Sure, everyone in there would have died, but they could have just spaced them and the xenomorph and everything would have turned out fine.  Her choice was the correct one, but things didn’t work out as she had hoped.

Next, things keep going from bad to worse.  As more and more of the crew is dying, Ripley is having to make hard choices.  The captain dies, and she gets the answer to why they went to the planet.  It turns out, her and her crew was viewed as expendable.  They were to get the xenomorph and bring it back for study.  When the robot turns on her, and all looks lost, she gets saved.  Now realizing that she is facing something that she is almost completely-incapable of stopping, she now is in the position to make the call.  So her and what’s left of the crew decide to abandon ship and blow it up.

Just as it looks to be resolving, the last of her crew is killed.  Now, Ellen is alone.  She is all alone, inside a ship that is set to explode, with only minutes to spare.  Here, we see her at the most desperate she has ever been.  All she can do is run.  But as she is trying to escape, she finds something out – her cat is still out there.  The last thing she has left, and she has to make a call.  Does she leave and let the cat be destroyed with the ship.  Doing so would likely have had the ending play out differently.  Or does she risk it all and go back and save the only companion she has left.  She chooses to go back for her friend.

The two escape just in time.  It’s all over.  Everything seems to be wrapping up, when she realizes something – they aren’t alone in the shuttle.  The xenomorph is in there.  It’s all or nothing now.  Only one of them can survive.  So, in a last-ditch effort, she puts on a space-suit, opens the airlock, and blasts the creature out with a harpoon.  Thus ends the film.

Let’s look at another of my favorite female characters.

Captain Katherine Janeway

Captain Janeway is a commander of a starship.  Her ship is halfway across the galaxy and the trip home could end up taking more than her own lifetime.  She makes the choice to do this based on the fact that (and I have remarked that this is a plothole in the series, since it would have been easy to avoid) by using the Array to get home, she would have condemned another species to die.  Destroying it means that her crew is stranded, and has to make some hard decisions.

Janeway is a very solitary character.  Over the course of the series, there are many instances where her loneliness is confronted.  It is often in ways that show that she isn’t dealing with it particularly well.  She can’t have any relationships.  As the captain of her ship, any relationship she would have would be with a subordinate.  It would be a conflict of interest.  When she is falling for a hologram, her and the Doctor have a very frank discussion on just how unpleasant her situation is, and the end of that episode has her indulging in a fantasy in order to keep her emotional health stable.

In addition, she is also a character who is stubborn and can think on her feet.  This comes back in interesting ways when she meets Seven of Nine and frees her from the Borg Collective.  Her attempts to turn this person human end up with her trying to mold Seven into someone like her.  But that often backfires on her when Seven is shown to be very much her own person, and often being very critical of Janeway and her view on things.  But she does take cues from the fact that Janeway is willing to do almost anything to save the members of her crew, and doesn’t accept failure from herself, as much as anyone else.  When she gets pissed, everyone knows that Janeway is going to stir up some fucking dust!  My favorite moments with her are the ones where she is totally unafraid to go to insane extremes due to her own anger or annoyance.

Beatrix Kiddo (The Bride)

When we first meet Kiddo, it is at her own wedding.  Having finally escaped a life of being an assassin, she is hoping to settle down and start over with someone she loves.  But, she realizes that it isn’t so easy as to leave the assassin lifestyle.  Her former comrades end up coming in and shooting up the place.  They beat the shit out of her and then her former leader (and also the father of her child) shoots her in the face.  You’d think that would be the end of it, but it’s not.

Months later, she comes back from a coma, and there is one singular purpose in the back of her mind – kill Bill, along with all her former comrades.  After dragging herself out of the hospital, and getting free, she makes a list.  It’s a list of all the people that she has to kill.  Each one has left and found their own life as well.  As she goes down the list of killing her targets, you see that not only is she destroying the lives of everyone connected to her ultimate target, but there are times when she is ruining their family’s lives.  Vernita Green, for example.  After killing her, she looks up to see her daughter standing there.  It’s a moment where she has to realize that by doing this, she is perpetuating a cycle that can’t be stopped.  She tells the girl that once she is older, if she still wants revenge, Kiddo will be waiting.

In her quest for vengeance, we see the kind of person that she both was and who she has become.  While I wasn’t satisfied with the way the second film ended, it does show that Kiddo was a different person from when she started.  All the carnage that she laid at Bill’s feet, and then taking Bill’s life, it was something that she had to accept and move past.

Conclusion

Did you notice something about all the characters that I described?  Did you notice that I didn’t have to talk about how empowered they are?  There’s a reason.  Truly empowered characters don’t need a bunch of women on a stairwell holding up a sign that says “Girl Power.”  A truly empowered character is a character first.  Their empowerment comes from what they do with the situations and the choices they are given.  What’s more, sometimes they make mistakes.  Sometimes they screw up.  All three of the characters I described made mistakes.  Sometimes really bad ones.  Like how Janeway could have just transported a torpedo over to the Array and rode it home first.  Or fired a torpedo with a timer on it to give them time to get home.  Still, my over-analyzing aside, these characters don’t need me to tell you how empowered they are.  They just are.

What this film and it’s SJW defenders don’t realize is that saying something is “girl power” doesn’t make it so.  You need a character first.  Someone who is fun to watch.  Someone that we grow to like.  We need to care about their struggles, because we come to know them.  I don’t see that in this film.  All I see is a bunch of cutouts, being given lines that are meant to sound empowering.  In the process, all the soul that this film might have been able to have is stripped away.  But please, tell me again how sexist I am because I don’t like this film.  Tell me about how I have a problem with women.  Go right ahead.

Until next time, a quote,

“Strong women don’t play victim, don’t make themselves look pitiful, and don’t point fingers.  They stand and deal.”  -Mandy Hale

Peace out,

Maverick

Advertisements

6 thoughts on “Critical Examination: “Empowering” Female Characters

  1. I’m glad you mentioned Janeway. Voyager is actually my favorite Star Trek series. Not sure how many Trekkie fans would align with me on that. She is a great character, indeed. She’s tough as nails and super scrappy, and Kirk-like in a lot of ways. But she also displays a feminine side and can be an exceedingly warm, matronly figure.

    But yeah, it’s kind of funny how the SJWs clamor about not having enough (strong) female or minority characters. When you take a closer look at nerd culture, there are tons of great characters to be found fitting the bill. But as you say, they don’t wear placards.

    • I like Voyager, but it can never be my favorite. Two words – Patrick Stewart. He just wins. No matter what. The other thing is that Voyager would be in a lot better standing were it not for one thing which always bugged me – the fan-service outfits for Seven. This looked SO dumb. It was such blatant fan service. I hated them. Besides, she looked hotter in uniform. Much stupid.

      • Patrick Steward is indeed pretty great. I also loved Worf and Data from TNG. I also really liked a lot of the Voyager crew too, though. The Doctor had great character development, and Seven’s wasn’t too bad either, despite the stupid heeled-jumpsuits. Torres and Paris had an interesting relationship arc, too. Neelix grated on me the first time I watched the show, but upon multiple viewings he grew on me. And I just found Janeway so much more dynamic than Picard.

        Sure, he was a great negotiator and was pretty cool when he put his foot down, but I guess his style was a little too diplomatic for my taste. Maybe he would realistically be a more desirable captain figure, but he could be a little boring. He did have some great development as well, especially with the Borg story arc, but the movies kind of damaged his character a bit for me.

      • Again, Patrick Stewart. It doesn’t matter how good Janeway is, bald, egg-head British guy will always win. She got the long end of the stick on that one. And yeah, Voyager had an interesting bunch. Paris was my favorite character when I originally watched the series as a kid. He was kind of the bad boy, which is what I always wanted to be. Kim is my least favorite character. He was SO BORING. The only episode where they change that and make him more negative, he becomes a lot more interesting. The worst part was about Seven was that I liked her character. She was interesting. But those outfits were so distractingly bad that it kept getting in the way. Good show, but Next Generation has it pegged. A close second, for me. I make trekkie friends angr when I say that I didn’t like Deep Space Nine very much.

      • I agree with you there. Odo was cool and Word and O’Brien were there, but none of the other characters really did it for me.

      • The plot was interesting. I did enjoy the war with the Dominion stuff. But Star Trek has always been about the characters, for me. So when you have boring characters, I am bored.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s