Undead sexist cliches: Women who orbit men (#SFWApro)

So I was thinking about the movie Paycheck some more and then I also started thinking of this post about strong female characters by my friend and fellow writer Elizabeth Berger.

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.

2 Comments

Filed under Movies, Undead sexist cliches, Writing

2 responses to “Undead sexist cliches: Women who orbit men (#SFWApro)

  1. Liz

    Absolutely true, we might need a Bechdel Test equivalent for writing.

    On this week’s episode of Supernatural a single female character walked away unharmed at the end of the episode, and my favorite comment on Tumblr was along the lines of “Guys, a woman survived an episode of Supernatural! Do you know how big an accomplishment this is??”

    My current NaNo project actually has next to no female characters. Oops. But at least they’re not there to orbit around the male characters. Maybe partly because the male character is gay and the only women who show up are his relatives….

  2. Pingback: Undead sexist cliches: “Women never do anything for political reasons” | Fraser Sherman's Blog

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