Last week, the guys discussed who was the toughest female hero in science fiction, and this week continue the discussion for your reading enjoyment.
Chris: So women are hard to write for. Are we all in agreement there? Great! I think that pretty much wraps things up here for the week, yeah?
Okay fine, let's dig deeper for the sake of Internet discussion. Right now in the mainstream culture surrounding movies, TV shows, and video games, there are generally three kinds of female characters: Sex appeal, corpses, and men. Alright, more explanation is needed there.
First, you have your obvious with sex appeal. I'm looking pretty heavily at video games here, specifically ones like Dead or Alive or Soul Calibur insomuch as the female characters represented there are more to show off jiggle physics than competent and deep game mechanics.
Second, you've got the corpse, the classic "woman in a refrigerator" that comics have been going wild with. This is essentially any female character whose main purpose is to be either bait for the hero, a reward for the hero, or the emotional righteous anger-inducer so that the hero may push through to their Super Saiyan transformation (though interestingly, Dragon Ball Z very rarely made females in peril the impetus for ragesplosions save for one throw-away fight in the Tenkaichi Budokai series).
Last, we have the most common female character for movies and TV shows: The man character that just so happens to have lady bits. She walks like a man, dresses like a man, talks like a man, and most importantly feels no emotion, just like a man. We're talking Michelle Rodriguez or The Bride from Kill Bill.
So why am I wasting time talking about stuff we already mostly likely know when I could be talking about the best science fiction female debate? Because I can't honestly bring up a truly strong female character in science fiction or really any fiction because what we define as "strong" doesn't work across genders and there isn't a universal agreement as to whether a strong woman is stronger than a strong man.
You wanna get some rage in ya? My senior year political science teacher got the class to levels of pandemonium one day when he mentioned that the best male athletes are always stronger, faster, and more impressive than the best female athletes. On a purely scientific level, yeah, you can't disprove that (world records for universal "best" are currently all held by men). But the problem comes from us defining women's abilities based on the standard we've supposedly agreed upon, which is currently "man."
This is like trying to judge a car by how far it can fly compared to a jet. A jet was built to fly, whereas a car was not, but we don't look at a car that flew an absurdly far distance despite its design as impressive because that jet still flew farther and made it look easier. Same goes for any races in the Olympics. Gold medal? Greatest guy in the world. Silver medal? Never heard of him.
Okay, back to females. My point is we're so damned stuck on this notion that female characters have to come as some sort of a comment, reaction, or inverse to male characters, and that simply doesn't have to be the case. I haven't mentioned books here because books, thank God, are still plowing ahead with stories and characters, especially of the female variety, that are unapologetically separate from the "men but different" ideas. And I can give you exactly no examples here because I read far too little and I wouldn't be able to appreciate that sort of story anyway because I am, sadly, very stupid when it comes to literacy.
Science fiction is one of the few genres that has begun pushing forward with some interesting plays with motherhood as central themes, such as in the Alien movies and here and there in the Metroid series. We're not quite all the way there just yet, but we're moving slowly forward at the very least. All that I ask is that we don't fall into the usual trappings of judging female characters against their male counterparts.
In terms of the debate though, damn, Sarah Connor had a super awesome moment where she told a terminator that it was terminated as she was terminating it, so my vote goes to her. Boom goes the dynamite.