Reclaiming “Strong Female Characters” in Science Fiction

There has been a lot of talk, and a lot of criticism about, a recently release Star Wars: Galaxy of Adventures animated short. This particular episode is basically a fawning tribute to Princess Leia, with a focus on the scenes in the Death Star in A New Hope. I’m not going to detail every single inaccuracy in this terrible, blatant rewriting of history. Others have done that far better than I can. However, there is something else going on here, that others have also talked about, that I feel I should discuss as well, as it’s honestly more important than any one franchise. (And let’s be honest, Star Wars is a dumpster fire at this point.)

This video, in which Leia was promoted, shown to be super kickass and brilliant while Hand and Luke, Luke in particular, were portrayed as stupid and bumbling, is just the latest incarnation of something that’s been happening for a long time. Mainstream entertainment has long been showing us highly competent, tough women juxtaposed with useless men who have to be bailed out by her. Very often, included with this, in the shows and films themselves, are snide, smug comments by said women.

Author Alexander Hellene puts it very well in a post on this topic that you should also read, describing the trope.

 

  • Man is doing something to fix a problem, get out of a dangerous situation, or something similar
  • Woman tells him that his idea won’t work, often in a snarky, bitchy manner while not helping or presenting an alternative
  • Man tells her to trust him, in a very cocky manner
  • Woman shakes her head, rolls her eyes, or makes an irritated sound and offers another snippy comment—usually all of the above
  • Man fails in a “hilarious” fashion as the woman is proven completely right
  • Woman makes another snide remark, usually an emasculating one, as she steps in and saves the day
  • Repeat

 

It’s tiresome, predictable, and, honestly, ridiculous. It is not reflective of what happens in real life at all, especially not among couples. And in cases where it does, the man is rarely even happy, and said relationships do not last long.

This trope, which can be found everywhere, is designed to promote conflict between men and women, as part of the broader attack against the traditional family, and people acting naturally. It’s insidious, and encompasses the entirety of mainstream entertainment today. Is it any wonder we are where we are, with marriages failing at record rates, huge percentages of children growing up without a stable family system?

Science fiction and fantasy stories have a long, very long history of competent female characters—don’t let the fake news media lie to you about that whenever a new movie comes out with a female protagonist. The difference is, these female characters, largely in older works, are not portrayed as competent at the expense at their male counterparts. Quite the opposite, they often had extremely positive relationships with the men in their lives, and worked as a team. Shocking! Men and women working together to overcome obstacles. When they needed rescue, they were grateful, not dismissive and angry at their rescuers. They didn’t belittle their friends, family, and allies. This didn’t, doesn’t make them any lesser people or characters. Princess Leia was always extremely competent and effective. She had her sharp, sarcastic side, but that wasn’t her entire personality, and she didn’t try to lord over her male counterparts once she trusted them. This Fake Leia looks worse by her unpleasant attitude.

One of the main characters in my Galaxy Ascendant series is an extremely strong, competent female character. Grand Admiral Nayasar Khariah is the commander in chief of her people’s military, in addition to being the heir to the throne on her home world. She is a competent and capable leader—and she knows the value of taking advice from others, of talking with those she trusts and relies on. She and her love interest, Admiral Felivas Kharitzon, who is her direct subordinate, are an excellent team, and throughout the series so far, each has been there for the other when they needed help, either in a physical sense, such as a rescue, or in a mental sense, when one was struggling with something. Nayasar, also unlike many modern “strong female characters” is capable both of making mistakes—mistakes which can come with heavy consequences—and learning from them to grow as a character, as a leader. Somehow, this ability to learn, this occasional vulnerability, does not make her lesser in the eyes of her male counterparts or readers. Almost as crucial to her, and the series, as her romantic relationship with Felivas is her friendship with Darkclaw, another main character, particularly as things get more dire—something else I rarely see in the mainstream today. This was mere common sense to me when I was concepting the character and her arcs—by the way, Nayasar is a character I first concepted about fifteen years ago, when I first began to formulate my ideas that eventually became A Greater Duty. Nayasar really hasn’t changed a whole lot, in concept, from that person I created when I was thirteen. What does it say about “mainstream” creators when a character initially created by a guy in eighth grade is a better “strong female character,” and a more human person (despite being an alien)? Is it incompetence or maliciousness on the part of the mainstream?

Readers like competent characters, who are capable of having, you know, normal—or at least healthy—relationships. Every romantic relationship in the Galaxy Ascendant series is a healthy one, in its own way. That doesn’t mean life is always perfect for my characters, or that there is no conflict at all. But in escapist fiction, why would you want to read about toxic relationships, and miserable people? Let men be men, and let women be women. Each with their strengths and weaknesses, both in a general sense and in an individual one.

As I said above, this is something that seems so obvious to me, that it’s frustrating when I see others are apparently incapable of doing the same. Every major female character in modern Star Wars fails at this, and that is absolutely playing a role in the franchise’s free fall. Excepting radical leftists, almost no one likes these new “strong women.” Rey is a bad joke, Jin was a flatline, Rose Tico is an even bigger joke, and Holdo may have seized the vaunted crown of “Worst Star Wars Character” from Jar Jar freaking Binks.

It’s not something that brings me pleasure to say, but Star Wars is a walking corpse at this point. They are literally vandalizing the original films now, no longer content with merely making new agenda-driven content. The Galaxy Ascendant, on the other hand, is still going strong. Book 3 is out, 4 and 5 are well on the way. Come and experience the series, with its varied and well-developed characters, male, female, and robot.

Support authors who give you good characters, and not those who hate you, and are seeking to poison minds with their agenda-driven characters.

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