A British 3D designer recently posted a link to the trailer for Disney/Pixar's new production "Brave" in our Linkedin group "Characters Engage". He then asked our group members for their views on strong female lead characters, sparking a long-running debate on the general subject matter.
An art institute tutor thought that creating a strong female lead character is very difficult without assigning a masculine role and behavior to it. She felt that films and games that are about adventure and excitement need powerful characters, such as Mulan and Lara Croft.
She went on to say that turning a character into a renegade, as a result, is an easy mechanism for adding "depth". Despite the fact that these kinds of characters appealed to the tomboy in her, she thought that this was already a tried role which, to some extent, lacks individuality. It almost seems as if the only way you can have a strong female lead is if that character has physical strength and fights a lot.
A lead artist from the games industry agreed and added that he enjoys female lead characters that can show the same strength and determination as male characters, but also show kindness and compassion. He thought that otherwise a female lead could easily come across as a man hater. The solution, according to this group member, is to allow such characters to be both strong and dignified, by retaining certain "feminine" qualities.
An animator brought up another interesting point when he said that it seems like a common story telling tactic to make all the men, female lead characters interact with, idiots. According to him this could lead to a disconnect that might actually diminish their heroism. Let's face it, someone who appears heroic when compared to fools, is not exactly a convincing hero.
The art institute tutor replied to all these points by saying that her biggest concern was how young girls see these characters. She said that there just aren't enough female characters to identify with, who will use their wit, charm, and bravery to overcome obstacles, instead of just relying on physical prowess.
The managing director of an animation company, on the other hand, thought that advancing morally acceptable stereotypes has nothing to do with good storytelling, but with pandering to rigid views of morality. He said that he finds stories that subvert such notions much more appealing. In his mind the whole concept of entertainment role models undermines people's personal responsibility for bringing their children up properly.
This subject has certainly triggered a lively debate. So why not join in and tell us what you think about strong female lead characters... here.