Pepper Potts and Good Female Role Models
a brief meta
Okay so as many of you may have noticed, there’s been a huge movement recently, both within fandom and without, to put more “strong female characters” onscreen. This is a Good Thing; this means that our society is finally catching on to some serious problems in the media, namely the female role models available for their children, and is trying to fix it.
This is great, especially for people like me who enjoy the kind of show or movie that historically caters to dudes. (Superheroes, zombies, sci-fi, ect.) I’m eagerly anticipating the day when I can go watch an episode of Criminal Minds or Walking Dead that doesn’t feature women as helpless victims, or when I can go watch Star Trek and not have gratuitous ass as the representation of my sex.
However, there’s been a bit of a problem translating the idea of a “strong female character” to the screen.
Take Michonne from Walking Dead, for example, or Game of Thrones’ Arya Stark. Both are great female characters, but they’re often considered the only “strong” female characters in their respective shows. Both characters reject traditional female roles—such as cooking and cleaning, dressing in skirts or dresses, and behaving in a typically female manner. Both embrace more traditionally masculine pursuits—swordfighting, killing, violence. Both are fairly stoic. Both are snarky and fierce and behave very much how men are supposed to behave.
And they’re the “strong female characters.” Now this is a problem because it implies that only women who reject typically feminine behaviors and characteristics are “strong.” This implies, still, that masculinity is the epitome of strength. This implies that girly is still weak. Female is still less than.
And while I appreciate the uptick in badass lady characters in the media, I don’t appreciate the uptick in traditionally masculine lady characters presented as the strong ones.
So, when I went to see Iron Man 3, I was expecting to see Pepper Potts, a traditionally feminine character, as the damsel in distress. She’s not “masculine” by any stretch of the imagination, so why should she get to be strong?
And then, and then, Marvel did it right.