The phrase “strong female character” is overused and often misinterpreted. When people think about it or use it as a descriptor, the context is typically a female character who kicks butt or overcomes an emotional hardship. It absolutely can include those things, but a character can be strong without them. Women have multiple facets and take on many roles. To be a strong female character, the role just has to be well written and human. Natalie Portman agrees.
She recently spoke with Elle magazine, and she absolutely nails the core of the issue:
“I want every version of a woman and a man to be possible,” Portman said. “I want women and men to be able to be full-time parents or full-time working people or any combination of the two. I want both to be able to do whatever they want sexually without being called names. I want them to be allowed to be weak and strong and happy and sad – human, basically.
The fallacy in Hollywood is that if you’re making a ‘feminist’ story, the woman kicks ass and wins. That’s not feminist, that’s macho. A movie about a weak, vulnerable woman can be feminist if it shows a real person that we can empathize with.”
Yes, all of this. I like seeing women beating down bad guys or aliens or whatever as much as the next person, but that doesn’t automatically make the character strong or even good. You can hit the target in more than one way and, hopefully, Hollywood will take note.