Liz’s post is about the need to have female characters who are more than just strong and heroic, they need flaws and distinctive personality traits (I’ve written my own thoughts about female protagonists here). But Paycheck reminded me of another problem with supposedly strong fictional women: for all their strength and ability (whatever their talents may be), a lot of them are just there to fall in love with the hero.
Uma Thurman’s biologist in the movie is presumably brilliant (CEO of Evil Aaron Eckhart is the kind of villain who hires the best), and the climax proves she can handle herself in a fight. But personality wise, the only drive or goal she has is to be in love with Ben Affleck. They knew each other, fell for each other, but his mind has been wiped of the past three years’ memory so he’s lost to her.
This is, of course, hardly a new idea. It’s a variation on the Bechdel Test—does the movie have more than two women? Do they talk about anything but their boyfriends?—does the heroine have a life that doesn’t orbit around the male lead? Does she have career goals that disappear as soon as she falls in love? Is she only there to love the hero and prove he’s a real man? Or to inspire him and motivate him by getting brutally murdered (known as “fridging” from one example back in the 1990s Green Lantern series)?
It’s not a lot to ask, but a lot of writing fails the test anyway.