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Today in Boobs

Rebecca Hall On Strong Female Characters: “We Need To Be Villains Too”

“There’s been a sort of trend for awhile of people writing strong women as women who are morally right, which is so uninteresting. It’s no fun and frankly it’s a massive disservice to womankind. It boxes us in to making these sort of slightly dull, virtuous choices… We need to be villains too. We need to be messy and sloppy and three-dimensional and complicated, and that’s writing a strong woman.”Rebecca Hall tells it like it is about female characters while discussing her new movie Closed Circuit.

Preach it, Ms. Hall. People all too often throw around the phrase “strong female character” like there’s only one way for a female character to be strong. You know what I’m talking about: Your butt kicking, heroic, “don’t need anybody but myself” badass. And she’s great! But she’s not enough. Give us female characters who are physically strong and physically weak. Morally bad and morally good. Mentally secure and struggling to keep it together. Give us female characters who are strong by virtue of being actual, complex human beings.

And yes, while you’re at it, give us more female villains. Those are my jam.

(via: The Wrap)

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  • Adrian

    Who is the best female villain in all of nerd culture?

  • Anonymous

    I just wrote a post about this! Or rather, about Admiral Cain, who is one of my all-time favorite badass villainous characters. If links are allowed, here ’tis:

  • Rebecca Pahle

    OH MAN.

    I don’t know about best, but I love Ma-Ma from Dredd.

  • Jeyl

    With the mind set of movies these days, you’ll be the villain before you’ll be the star.

  • Ashe

    God, just take away ‘female’ and ‘strong’.

    Just write *characters*.

    (note: I don’t mean take away the ‘female’ aspect as if it’s something to be ashamed of/isn’t worth noting, but rather that it ends up becoming the defining aspect of the Strong Female Character more often than not and I hatethatsomuch)

  • Miss Cephalopod

    I love me some Maleficent, simply because she’s so amazingly evil. But the witch from Paranorman is a big favourite too. (Although this one is a bit more complicated, don’t wanna spoil anyone though. But to me, even scarier and more terrifying than Maleficent.)

  • Anonymous

    Give us female characters who are strong by virtue of being actual, complex human beings.

    …filed under “Today in Boobs.”

  • Ashe

    Ursula popped up in my head the instant I read that.

    …I’ll just go with her. She rocks my world.

  • Aeryl

    I guess that depends on how you define “nerd culture”.

    Historical fiction nerd me is torn between Atia of the Julii from HBO’s Rome, and Melisande Shahirizai from Jaqueline Carey’s Kushiel series.

    Action movie nerd me goes with Rebecca below, Ma-Ma.

    Comic nerd me says Harley.

    Whedon nerd me says Faith(she’s my favorite hero too, so there ya go).

    Star Wars nerd me says Daala, just because she’s so delightfully evil, and even finding “true love” doesn’t deter her in her evil ways.

  • Anonymous

    YES! I also had this problem with the recent GLAAD report about queer representation in movies last year. They completely wrote off Skyfall as “Bad for the Queers” simply because the queer character happened to be the villain. It passed every single part of their “Russo test” with flying colors, not to mention the character was played by an Oscar-winning actor, one of the screenwriters is gay, and the movie made $1.1 billion, PLUS they used the opportunity to show that uber-masculine heterosexual icon James Bond is perfectly comfortable flirting with a man and implying that he may have slept with men in the past. If you don’t think that’s an over all Good for the Queers, I don’t know what you to tell you.

    Besides, aren’t the villains the reason you see Bond movies? (I’d also love to see another female Bond villain. I can only watch The World is Not Enough so many times)

  • Suzanne Larsen

    *laugh* that’s a pretty broad category.. I’ll throw in Kai Winn from DS9. Fanatically self-righteous, power hungry, manipulative, but with a genuine desire to help her people. She’s all sorts of flawed and contradictory. And Louise Fletcher absolutely kills it in the role.

  • Sarah

    It helps a lot if a story has more than one female character. If there’s only one woman and she’s morally upright, the story runs the risk of making a statement that all women are supposed to be morally upright. If there’s only one woman and she’s the villain, the story could be understood to be saying that all women are villains. If there’s only one woman and she’s shy… or only one woman and she’s sexually adventurous… same thing. If there’s only one woman, whatever she’s like can be interpreted as representative of all women.

    If, on the other hand, your story has a morally upright woman AND a woman who’s a villain AND one who’s shy AND one who’s not… then you’re no longer making statements about What All Women are Like. You’re just writing stories about people.

  • Nicole Elizabeth Currie

    Lilith from Supernatural wins in my books, especially when she’s a creepy little girl.

  • Rebecca Pahle

    She has such a good villain song! I love her attitude, too. “Body language, HAH!”

  • Rebecca Pahle


  • Laura Truxillo



  • Anonymous

    Well, villains can be as two-dimensional as anything, but yeah, strong female characters can do bad things. I think if you’re coming from from a straight-up hero/villain starting point, the character is less likely to be complex, either way.

  • Rose

    I think there’s a huge misconception among writers that a “strong female character” is one who is physically or emotionally strong. In my opinion, that’s not really what we mean by “strong”. When I refer to a character, regardless of gender as “strong”, I’m not talking about any quantifiable quality held by that character. I don’t mean they can lift 200lbs, or that they can stand through a funeral without crying. I mean it in a more figurative sense. As in, strongly written, with depth and character, in which case a weak character is a weakly written character, who comes across as one-dimensional and uninteresting.

  • Anonymous

    Easy. Azula in Avatar: The Last Airbender. So scary, so interesting, so well done. Not even just among female villains or just in nerd culture. She’s my favorite villain in anything ever. And good villains are my jam so that’s saying something. I love formidable genius psychopath villains, and women so rarely get to be that type. Plus, put Azula up against any other villain in any other story, and she would bring their ass down. I dream of what she’d do in Westeros.

  • Aashyma Never Would

    [Spoilers for Game of Thrones season 3]

    The issue with Skyfall though was that it had ONE queer character and that characteter was a Depraved Homosexual with mommy issues.

    It’s similar to the butchering of Loras Tyrell’s character in GoT-while in the books he not only remains deeply affected by Renly’s death but he’s not the only queer character to begin with. In the show he’s the only queer man (thanks to their straightwashing Xaro Xhoan Daxos) AND he comes off as All Homosexuals are Promiscious.

    Skyfall didn’t need a straight villain, it needed more queer characters in general to counterbalance the Unfortunate Implications.

  • Aashyma Never Would

    Melissandre from Song of Ice and Fire! I really liked Cersei too until Maggy the Contrived Plot Device (TM) came up.

  • Pythia

    Yes! And female villains who aren’t primarily motivated by sexual jealousy.

  • Suzanne Larsen

    my dream is a movie with Louise Fletcher, Fionnula Flanagan, and Veronica Cartwright, where they all try to out-evil each other. like the Evil-lympics.

  • Rebecca Pahle

    That’s one of the things I love about Ma-Ma. The movie didn’t sexualize her AT ALL, which is even more extraordinary when you consider her background of being a sex worker. Not that there’s anything wrong with the sexualized villainess, but let’s have some variety here!

  • Ashe

    I particularly love her because even though she’s a villian, even though she does despicable, cruel things, she also points out rampant sexism in-universe, making the viewer go, “…She’s got a point.”

    “It’s she who holds her tongue who gets the man!”

  • Ashe

    I second this so hard.

    Azula is just a fantastic character. That show has some seriously good writing.

  • Adrian

    I love that movie. I really want a Dredd sequel, but it would pretty amazing to get a Dredd prequel “Rise of Ma-Ma”

  • LifeLessons

    Hmmm… I like this post but women get to be villains a lot. In fact it is usually powerful, sexual, women (NOT teenage girls), that are villains.

    So until I get more cool awesome female HEROS I can skip the villains.

  • Anonymous

    Well, thing is, there actually is a very gross history of gay and queer characters being written as villains and rapists. I enjoyed Skyfall quite a bit but I really don’t think it’s fair to say queers “unfairly wrote it off for having a gay villain” when uh, yeah, I can see why certain gay people would be tired of seeing themselves as the bad guys too.

    Same way I sympathize with POC who say they’re sick and tired of the only POC characters in films being evil depraved bad guys. I can sure as shit tell you as a gay kid, seeing gay characters as villains (often snarling sex fiends and implied rapists) the majority of the time was SUPER damaging and one of the reasons I hated myself for so long.

    So yeah. And I don’t really get how it’s “empowering” that Bond toyed with the villain by saying he wouldn’t have a problem with a queer relationship. It was still initiated by the evil gay villain’s implied intent to fuck him.

  • AnnaB

    We hope some change is coming in that front, as we will have Coin in Catching Fire and Mocking Jay, and maybe Jeanine Matthews from Divergent. And while Mistique was not a villain in the X-Men: First Class movies, I expect to see more complicated villainy from her in the next movie/s. Then there’s Maleficent, too.

    I admit, there’s not much to work on. I’ve been thinking and thinking, but these upcoming films hold promise.

  • Skemono

    Azula … in Westeros.

    My brain just exploded.

  • Anonymous

    Oh, now that you’ve mentioned her I have to agree.

  • Anonymous

    Cersei meets Danaerys Targaryen.

  • Anonymous

    And it sorta depends on which type of women we’re talking about as well, I think it’s important to note. Because both Lucy Liu and Zhang Ziyi (and decades before that, Anna May Wong) have complained about how oftentimes, the only roles available to them in Hollywood are Dragon Ladies or Kung-Fu assassins of some sort.

  • Anonymous

    I’m not going to argue against putting more/varied queer characters in any movie, and I’m not saying Skyfall was a perfect example of queer representation, but I think you’re oversimplifying the issues. At least, I think one could argue that the tropes were played around with (and also, that Bond has a whole host of his own mommy issues. I mean, he takes M to his childhood home and introduces her to his father figure. I mean really.)

    Another thing– Silva was bisexual. The Depraved Bisexual just as much of a problematic trope, but bi-erasure is a problem too, and speaking as a bisexual I definitely got more irritated at people calling him gay than I did at any of the tropes.

  • Lisa Liscoumb

    Yes!!! I was thinking of her as I read this story. I also like Jodie Foster’s character from Elysium.

  • Cody Gough

    Jesse from Team Rocket. Her resilience is truly astounding. Most would quit after trying to catch one specific creature for so long, yet she returns in every episode. And definitely an iconic nerd character. Hard to argue with.

  • Anonymous

    The Misfits. Their music’s better.

  • Aeryl

    And sex workers.

  • Aeryl

    I feel they are implying Blackfish’s homosexuality, but that’s open to interpretation.

    But yeah, Loras is terrible in the show. He’s shallow and vapid and obsessed with fashion.

  • Aeryl

    Jesse is my spirit animal.

  • Aeryl

    I liked her until she was revealed to be brain dead. The first books demonstrate her as so cunning and brilliant, every scheme she tries succeeds. But then you realize she was only successful, because Ned was even more stupid.

  • Anonymous

    I never said anything about it being empowering or anything. Just that on a metatextual level it’s a lot more positive than it’s made out to be. We now have a generation of young men who have seen an icon of Western masculinity essentially say it’s no big deal. Where once that sort of come-on would have been met with a punch to the face and cheers from the audience, now it’s met by some flirting back (and cheers from the audience, at least when I saw it).

    But I also fully admit that I am a product of the “After Ellen” generation, and I have grown up with far more positive (if sparse) queer representation than negative. As well as a certain ingrained fondness for villains ;)

    My point is that a queer character drove the entire plot of a movie that made $1.1billion, and Hollywood’s first language is money. How are we supposed to convince Hollywood that queer heroes can sell if we’re not willing to on some level embrace the less-than-savory characters who were financially successful? When you could take That Scene from Skyfall into a producer’s office and then say “Now imagine the hero is queer too, and I can give you 1.1 billion reasons why this could work.”

  • Anonymous

    Because as with the point I made below concerning WOC, the standards and depictions aren’t the same across the board for every type of group. Yes, the movie was a hit and had a queer villain driving the plot.

    No, that does not mean it’s silly or unfair for queer people to be annoyed or hurt by yet another depiction of yet another cackling, snarling queer villain.

  • Laura Truxillo

    Oof, yes, okay Azula might tie with Demona for my favorite villain. And in terms of successful plan execution, she beats D out.

  • Anonymous

    Seriously, Daala? She’s such an incompetent that having her on your enemies’ side counts as an advantage for you. She spent the entire Jedi Academy Trilogy and Darksaber repeatedly screwing up while remaining convinced that she was better than anyone else, and is exceptional at losing Star Destroyers (and even Super Star Destroyers!) to massively inferior forces.

    Those were the books that introduced her, and after them, any attempt to pass her off as talented is laughable.

  • James Amaral

    Azula, from Avatar: The Last Airbender. Animated, yes, but an amazing villain, intelligent, talented, utterly maniacal, and yet sympathetic all at the same time. God I love that show.

  • Anonymous

    While I absolutely agree with her, I’m in the moment more concerned with the fact that right now we’re not getting any of the female badasses as main leads in action films anymore, either!

    I can remember that (was it then) early last year we had Gina Carano as the lead in “Haywire”, the 4th “Underworld”movie with Beckinsale and the year before films like “Hanna” or “Colombiana” but suddenly this seems to be all over and female action characters are mainly part of a male team or delegated to supporting the main male hero, like in “The Avengers”, “The Dark Knight Rises” or this year probably in the next “Riddick”.

    Where have all the female action leads gone? Suddenly they seem all to have disappeared and it seems no one has noticed. In the moment the only female lead I see where I live is Maggie Q in “Nikita”, a series that is being shown here with a delay of 3 years.

    While I supported the call for multi-faceted female characters (and villains, of course ;-9) I worry that the wave of female badass action leads is already over – again. Please tell me, I’m wrong!

  • Anonymous

    While I love Azula I’m absolutely devoted to Shego who’s more competent than her boss! ;-9

  • James Fletcher

    I don’t think I would qualify her as best, but I have a complicated relationship with Admiral Daala from the Star Wars EU.

    I remember originally reading the Jedi Academy Trilogy as a kid and thinking she was a weak villain. She’s presented this big threat in the novels, but all she ever does is lose. To this day I’m not sure if Kevin J. Anderson was trying to parody Thrawn with her, or if he was just a bad writer.

    Anyway, I never reread the books but I did read through her Wookiepedia article once and I realized that she actually did pretty well considering she got stuck with absolutely terrible luck.

    She impresses Tarkin enough to get put in charge of a super secret facility, and gets forgotten about cause everyone who knew about it died. She finds out the Empire collapsed years ago, and decides to attack the entire new Republic with just five Star Destroyers. Not five Super Start Destroyers, just five regular ones.

    Then after getting the crap kicked out of her, she tries uniting the remaining Imperial Warlord. When that fails because they’re too petty to get along, she kills them and takes over. Then gets an actual Super Star Destroyer and bombs the Jedi academy, and only gets stopped because of a deus ex machina.

    Somehow she also got elected chancellor of the republic, but I haven’t read that book and my brain was shutting down from Wookiepedia information overload, so I can’t comment on that.

  • Anonymous

    Yes!! Finally another Winn supporter! One of the best, most complex and original characters of Star Trek. She and Gul Dukat… wow!

  • Anonymous

    “There’s been a sort of trend for awhile of people writing strong women as women who are morally right, which is so uninteresting. It’s no fun and frankly it’s a massive disservice to womankind. It boxes us in to making these sort of slightly dull, virtuous choices… We need to be villains too. We need to be messy and sloppy and three-dimensional and complicated, and that’s writing a strong woman.”

    Although she’s the hero, this is what I liked most about Katniss in The Hunger Games. She’s not a Good Female Role Model. She’s highly self-centred and shows little regard for others (aside from her family) most of the time, she’s ruthless and willing to kill, she has little political skill and spends a lot of time getting manipulated – she’s a female character who is fully characterized and has good qualities, but really isn’t a wonderful person and certainly isn’t in control of her circumstances.

    I understand the Good Female Role Model fantasy books (Tamora Pierce, Mercedes Lackey) as something that had a purpose, but it’s nice to see a greater variety of female characters, just as there are works with male protagonists who can be heroes, complete jerks, screw-ups, or anything in between.

  • Anonymous

    Deciding to attack the Republic with five Star Destroyers isn’t “bad luck”, it’s an atrocious strategic decision. So is starting any kind of a campaign before gathering a bit more in the way of intel. So is attacking the home planet of a New Republic admiral using a strategy which he witnessed and would know all about. So is whatever the heck she was thinking in Darksaber when she sent in the Star Destroyer fleet after Yavin 4 first and left the SSD behind for a while. So is attacking Yavin 4 without ysalamiri.

    Rogue Squadron can do more with 12 X-Wings than Daala can with a fleet of Star Destroyers.

    I got the sense from her than Anderson was trying to write his own Thrawn (member of a discriminated-against class, suddenly appears to lead the Empire) but isn’t a good enough writer to have her lose without being laughably incompetent. He has the same problems with all his villains in the Young Jedi Knights books – the only reason the heroes can win is the villains making stupid decisions. You have to have a bit of a mind for tactics and intrigue to have intelligent heroes defeating intelligent villains, and Anderson hasn’t got that; it’s a lot easier to have competent heroes defeating incompetent villains.

    My headcanon is that Pellaeon did expect Daala to be the next Thrawn, partly out of missing Thrawn and desperately wanting not to be the one in charge of the whole mess that was the Empire, and teamed up with her for that reason. And after the whole Knight Hammer incident realized that she’s really, really, nothing at all like Thrawn, and both he and Daala recognized that he’d have to be the one running things.

  • Laura Truxillo

    Honestly, I’m a little tired of the “female badass” thing. It seems like if a woman is the lead in an action movie, she’s always the Serious-badass–stoic and cool. I kinda hope that if/when Captain Marvel gets a movie, that she gets her moments to be as goofy as Tony Stark.

    I don’t think their era is done yet, though.

  • Laura Truxillo

    But also so charmingly apathetic that she just doesn’t CARE.

  • James Fletcher

    To be fair, I’m totally working off of memories of books I’ve largely tried to forget. I generally devoured any Star Wars books regardless of quality back then, but I remember Darksaber was the first one that I realized wasn’t very good. Though it took me years to realize the whole Druga the Hutt plot was riffing on James Bond.

  • Anonymous

    On that front I think Joss Whedon has the same solid grasp of humor and goofiness that Kelly Sue DeConnick has. So the chances of having that come through in a Captain Marvel movie is fairly high.

    At least that what I get from the way KSD’s Avengers Assemble is the closest comic marvel has to The Avengers movie in terms of tone.

  • Anonymous

    Completely agree. Same as with having more women characters that are diverse across the board in motivation, personality, size, ethnicity, etc. The more we populate our media with characters of variety, the less it can be seen as ‘this one (token) character represents all of this one minority.’ If there is only ONE of x, y, or z, then high scrutiny comes (rightly) into play. But when we have more variety on the table, good and bad and in between, it then turns into writing about the tapestry of people living in a complex world. And it allows us to have a wide variety of stories, representations, heroes and villains, and an overall enriched media. :)

  • Anonymous

    I am a cynic when it comes to these issues, let me preface with that. I grew up with little representation as a non-straight person, and the characterizations I did see represented were all too tired re-treads of Depraved Bisexuals and queers as sexual predator villains and the Evil Gay(s). I am all for diversity in our mediums (tv, books, movies, video games), but I’d rather we get some very positive queer heroes of all kinds in all mediums before we cheer for still being villains.

    Not to mention that one can read into The Straight Hero triumphing over the Evil Queer Villain on many, many levels when it is the only queer representation in the film.

  • Anonymous

    I’ll echo the Faith vote. She had layers and flaws aplenty. And, likewise, she’s also my favorite hero as well. So that says something when you can be both favorite hero and villain. Another complex villain from the series I find worth noting is Darla.

    Historical fiction, though, my vote would stay in Rome era, but it’d go to the villain ladies in Spartacus. Lucy Lawless’ Lucretia and Viva Bianca’s Illythia were amazingly crafted and multi-layered, imo. And just enjoyable to watch.

  • Anonymous

    I agree concerning humor. I like humor in my action heroes, be they male or female. One never should forget that this all more or less started with ironic Diana Rigg as larger-than-life-heroine Emma Peel!!!

    (Unless you go further back in film history and dig out old pirate movies with Maureen O’Hara and Jean Peters! ;-9)

    But I’m not tired of the “female badass” thing: I want a female “John Wayne”, a female “Dirty Harry” (don’t you dare to say Sandra Bullock to me), a female “James Bond”, a female “Arnold Schwarzenegger” and so on. I think the first decade of this millenium was a nice beginning but now it’s time to build something up on that as male heroes of many different genres have done over a century. The “female badass action hero” is still very young. It shouldn’t stop here, it should develop further but in the moment I have the feeling Hollywood is treading water on this and the “action heroine” is once again subordinated to the quota-girl of action-groups. That would be a step back in my opinion!

  • Anonymous

    That is something that went through my mind when reading the post. I don’t find we have enough *good* and *well written* lady ‘badass’ heroes to even begin with. We have a minor few by comparison to all that is out there in the media. Honestly, the role women serve in the most is as no-agency damsels or girlfriends/wives (and oftentimes as dead damsels or girlfriends/wives :P).

    Another aspect of the problem is that the lady warrior-type/badass/whatever is rarely the star of her own film, game, show, series. She may be an important side character or leading woman (who also somehow becomes the damsel and/or girlfriend, of course) but it is rare enough that a woman is leading an action flick.

    So yes, I’d love to see more diversity in women representation across the board, in personality and motivation and more women of color and size, heroines and villains, etc. I just think there is room enough for all types, badass or otherwise.

  • Skye

    I really really enjoyed seeing Mother Russia in Kick Ass 2. I was awed by her physique and how she was more capable than her villain boss. But I guess I shouldn’t like her because she was physically strong instead of complex? And that she only wasn’t sexualized because she had short short hair and is a bodybuilder in real life and huge muscles “aren’t sexy”? I…don’t know. It’s so hard to say you like a character without someone jumping in to critique them for one thing or another.

  • Laura Truxillo

    Oh man, yes. The first arc of KSD’s AA read like Justice League International, but with Science Bros and also Captain-snark.

    I do have faith in Whedon to do tough ladies right because, yeah, Black Widow is a stoic ass-kicker, but he made his bones on the concept of women who could be tough and goofy at the same time.

  • Anonymous

    Rains of Castamere? More like FLAMES of Castamere! *drops mic*

  • stella

    Once Upon a Time, Orphan Black, and Pretty Little Liars come to mind for me.

  • Nuuni Nuunani

    I find this to be an interesting topic because often I hear people screaming in outrage that a story has a strong female antagonist. Not due to a dislike of women, but because as women, they are outraged that a female is seen in a villainous role and perceive this as an attack on womankind.

    I appreciate this statement because frankly, so long as a character is well written it doesn’t matter who or what they are, their awesome regardless of their role so long as it is done well.

  • Not So Young Democrat

    Check out Glenn Close’s oeuvre. She’s played a ton of villainous, or at least morally tainted, characters.

  • Not So Young Democrat

    The first season of Damages was really excellent tv and the central conflict in it was really the interaction between two women: Rose Byrne as the young innocent ingenue and Glenn Close as a morally compromise machiavelli.

    Currently probably the most female centric show which doesn’t revolve around people taking their clothes off is probably Once Upon a Time where most of the main protagonists and antagonists are women and with the exception of Rumplestiltskin the men are pretty much all one dimensional cardboard characters.

  • Aashyma Never Would

    Ach. Luckily there’s a Depraved Bisexual trope as well. :P

    I’d love (as in genuinely love, not sarcastically) to read about how you think the tropes were played with? I don’t really enjoy James Bond and that was the first JB flick I watched in theatre and at one go, so it’s likely I missed a lot of things.

  • Aashyma Never Would

    I Loved Kai Winn! I recently watched DS9 and was so excited over all the different women in the show. Absolutely fell in love with Kira Nareys-she’s so brave and strong and so flawed and broken at the same time.

  • Magdalen O’Reilly

    I don’t know why I read comments on articles like this. No matter how obvious it is that the point is “Women are often written as 2-dimensional etc. etc.” some people will always view this as a challenge to pick out all the character who don’t fit that mold. They are a drop in the fucking bucket. It’s not helpful. Stoooop. D:

  • Aeryl

    I love me some Lucretia and Illythia(THAT ENDING!!!!). But Atia was first in heart.

    Also, Lucretia was way sympathetic, whereas Atia was not, so she weighs more on the straight villain side.

  • Aeryl

    I don’t like her because she’s “competent” I like her because in one book, she reunites with her childhood love, which in any other story would put her out of the villain game, but Daala just comes back angrier than ever.

    I love THAT.

  • Maggie

    I heard it phrased wonderfully elsewhere online (can’t remember exactly where offhand, it’s been years), but the idea that people don’t just want “strong female characters” but instead, “female characters, strong.”

  • Charles M. Hagmaier

    Irina Derevko in Alias.

  • Charles M. Hagmaier

    Tamura’s general approach to parenting makes me laugh.

  • Anonymous

    (OK, brace yourself for the teal deer, I have a lot of feelings.)

    For one thing, normally the Depraved Queer trope is played like “this is how They are”– the queer character is predatory and promiscuous as illustration, showing that they’re Other and banking on the audience’s theoretical heterosexism to fill in the blanks as it were that “this guy is a special kind of evil.” In Skyfall, it’s not so much something the story does as something
    the character himself does; he is actively trying to provoke that reaction in Bond. His entire introductory scene is a carefully planned display in which he’s trying to tear down Bond’s sense of self– talking about how broken and damaged he is, how M has betrayed him (ordering a shot she knew would probably hit him, sending him into the field when he had failed all his
    evaluations), and then he attempts to go after Bond’s sexual identity. That’s not lazy writing of an unimaginative screenwriter (in fact the writer of
    that scene is himself gay), it’s a very conscious act of a character who thinks he has a complete understanding of his adversary’s psychology. He is stunned when it doesn’t work, and he drops it entirely.

    Contrast that with an earlier Bond film, Diamonds Are Forever (side-note: first Bond movie I ever saw and it put me off the franchise for about 5 years), where assassins and lovers Mr. Wint and Mr. Kidd, though not playing on the “depraved” queer trope, still have their sexuality played as the thing that shows they’re villains– instead of having scars or deformities like other Bond villains, their thing is just that they’re gay. They’re not even the main villains, they’re barely effectual goons and are often played for comic relief (including a slight “lovers’ squabble”). And their eventual deaths at the hands of Bond involve a none-too-subtle strike to the groin. Their deaths are played for laughs. Meanwhile, Silva’s sexuality never comes up again, and he’s not painted as any less terrifying or competent because of it. He even ends up being without question the most sympathetic villain of the franchise– you don’t feel good when Bond kills him, you don’t really feel he completely deserved it.

    Another thing: earlier in the movie Bond attempts to open Eve’s shirt– without permission, without even knowing her name at that point. She stops him and it’s depicted rather playfully in some of the sexiest mood-lighting I’ve ever seen. But about 20 minutes later, Silva opens Bond’s shirt and the scene plays very tensely and vaguely unsettling in the stark light of day. It’s a very conscious contrast– Silva is treating Bond the way Bond treats women. While neither should be acceptable, Bond’s treatment of women is a cornerstone of the franchise, and that scene serves as a subtle moment of deconstruction of the whole “institution” of the Bond Girl.

    As for the Mommy Issues, M more or less admits that MI6 is a breeding ground for those since they prefer to recruit orphans like Bond–implying that Silva is also one. Given the dates Silva gives as his tenure at MI6, he would have only been about 18 when he was recruited. This isn’t a simple case of “Mother figure didn’t love me enough.” This is an already damaged young man being specifically recruited for his damage, put under the supervision of a woman who has a pattern of picking favorites who develop a special loyalty to her, only to have her betray him in a truly objectively awful way. Reducing his trauma to “mommy issues” is (IMHO) overly simplistic.

    And Bond also has them, if much more subtly than Silva. Bond’s first action upon returning from “death” is to break into her home and berate her for not trusting him. His psychological evaluation says his problems with authority (read: M) stem from childhood trauma. Later to protect her, as I said, he takes M to his childhood home and introduces her to his father figure. She even dies in the same chapel where his actual mother is buried. And by the end I think it’s pretty clear that Bond isn’t trying to protect M out of duty, he’s doing it out of personal need. I’ve heard plenty of people criticize or joke about the fact that Silva has mommy issues, but I’ve heard no one assert that he (or Bond) are unjustified in feeling that way about her.

    Keep in mind, Silva is, among other things, presented as Bond’s dark mirror. (Hell, it’s in the opening credits as Bond shoots at his own shadows until one of them turns into Silva). Almost everything he does is a comment or reflection on something of Bond’s. He was M’s favorite back in the day. After she gives him up to the Chinese, he withstands five months of torture without giving up any information, not out of duty to Britain, but a personal need to protect M (huh that sure sounds familiar…) And both Bond and Silva, after realizing and surviving her ‘betrayals’, react in basically the same way–Silva tries to kill himself, Bond pretends to be dead. But neither of them can stay away from her forever. And they both, in some way, hold her as she’s dying. This is not a character that the creators developed in broad strokes.

    And that’s why I object to characterizing Silva as “yet another queer villain with mommy issues.”

  • MeatyStakes

    I agree with the sentiment even if I do think we have to mention those awesome character that break the mold. You have to keep them present as fore figures i’d say.

    But yeah, it’s kinda the equivalent of the “FEMINISM IS OVER” joke but played straight.

  • MeatyStakes

    It’s all about variety I’ll say! It’s really pointless to work the same archetypes over and over again. You are only left with what feels like a overused stereotype.

  • MeatyStakes

    I wanna say Sylvanas Windrunner from the Warcraft franchise. She is sneaky, dangerous and violent. Had a very emo phase, but now has a joy the vivre for causing manheim and raisin’ zombies. Previously fueled by revenge, now she only fears the grave, and will do anything to avoid her death, even using her subjects as a meat sheild. Also she has lots of sass and witty one liners. Oh, and she is a walking corpse that refuses to stay dead.

    One of the things I’m ambivalent about is her sexualized appearance; beyond being fanservice for the players, it doesn’t has any bearing in her characterization and plot, No one has ever called her sexy in game, cause y’know, she is a corpse.

  • Lilly

    I loved her in Parade’s end!
    I was totally rooting for Sylvia the whole time. Also a fine example of a complex character. A bit not good and very selfish but realistic all the same

  • Anonymous

    Writing a story giving women bad traits is misogynistic.