I am so happy this thread is getting replies.
One of Joss' oft-repeated quips, addressing the question "why do you keep writing strong female characters," is "because you're still asking me that question." Zarban linked to the source in that YouTube clip. It's a great line.
I guess what I'd ask Allison is simply: what about Joss's position, with regards to female empowerment* in the geekworld understanding, alarms you?
Zarban's link is a good start to my problems with Joss, but this quote also sums them up nicely.
Girls and women can be strong without being broken first, but Joss rarely writes them this way. Joss has a very specific brand of feminism that consists of thin little girls being broken down and then becoming badasses. Usually the breaking of his women involves rape or something akin to it. The easiest examples of this are River's "training" by the Alliance and the first Slayer having powers put into her against her will by men. Let's ignore the romanticized rape-fest that is Dollhouse for now.
I hate to make generalizations, but I think this trend is echoed in a lot of geek culture. Female characters are thin and broken and falling apart before they start kicking ass. You guys mention Jim Cameron for strong females*, and he does an alright job on this front. Sarah Connor can't make a bomb without learning how to first, but we see that she's still a pretty capable human before the T-800 comes to town. Aliens also has some good ladies that didn't go through a trauma in order to be interesting. But, oh man, do I love that line about writing strong women who need a stronger man.
And, a fair question raised in the previous thread: who better? It's a serious question. We can acknowledge that Joss' perspective on women is still problematic, but just because he's not the end of the path doesn't mean he's not a step along it -- and is anyone further along that can serve as a role model?
I would say George RR Martin, who is by no means perfect, is much further along in his portrayal of women. I hate having a male example, but he's the commercial one I can always go to. In ASOIAF, the women are strong in a lot of different ways. You have Cersei using her sexuality to move up, Sansa using her courtesy as a political tool, Arya the warrior, Catelyn the protective mother, Brienne the soldier, Ygritte the liberated fighter, Daenerys the caretaker and leader, all of the Mormont women, and Ellaria Sand and all of the Sand Snakes. Those are just the big names at the top of a long list. GRRM presents his female characters as strong in many different ways, and while some of them have gone through a lot to make them strong (Dany, Arya, and Cersei) some of them are using the strength they already had to respond to changing situations (Sansa, Cat, Ygritte, Ellaria). And none of them are presented as better than the other within the text, despite their differences.
I guess this adds on to what Teague asked. People cite Joss as a great creator of "strong women"* and don't talk about what should come next. Joss wrote it, it's great, and that's the end of the discussion. Where are my female creators? Why is Gail Simone our only big example in the comic book world?
Outside of the geekworld, Robert and Michelle King are doing great work on The Good Wife. I actually wrote my Common App essay on the show. I write a lot of essays.
*I second the "ugh", Teague. There is a great article that I cannot currently find that talks about why we should discuss "strong characters, female" not "STRONG FEMALE CHARACTERS". I'll try and dig it up.
Last edited by Allison (2012-11-25 21:29:30)