In recent literature, film and other media, there has been a rising amount of fierce fictional women. Ladies who can slay their own dragons and obliterate nasty aliens who are invading their home. While some are gifted in physical strength and fighting skills, others are gifted in emotional strength and wit. Look anywhere in modern media and you’ll find that women are represented as power houses as much as men are.
While I love the fierce lady trope in characters, it can be done extremely wrong when combined with certain elements. These elements include cynicism, snarkiness, and lack of change to the character. While it is perfectly okay to have all of these elements, the character cannot stay like that during the entire plot. Otherwise, they are static, and one cannot have static main characters. It teaches the audience nothing. Not to mention the character should not always be right. To many people, these elements that are not effective plot-wise, make the character modern. They actually just make the character unpleasant.
Due to these elements being used so frequently with the independent woman characters in modern media, people often do not understand that sweetness is also a strength. Kindness is a super power many people overlook and often think that it is a trait of flat characters.
A sweet lady should never be confused with being a boring lady. This thought process is in opposition to the lady characters of the 50’s who are often considered to be flat. The actual cause for the flatness was due to writing and women only filling the role of the damsel, rather than their ability to be nice or polite.
Belle from Beauty and the Beast (1991) is the essence of a sweet and sensitive female character who can always stick up for herself and others. When she is frustrated with the Beast, she never calls him names or insults his character. She just tells him that she’s “…Not hungry,” and tells him that he should try to control his temper. Belle is reacting to what he’s doing, and while not always right, she’s never unnecessarily nasty. As soon as he changes his belligerent behavior, she is nothing short of an absolute sweetheart to him. She also grows as well and opens up to him considerably more than she’s opened up to other people.
Not all strong women characters who use a lot of the elements in their formula are always terrible or unpleasant. In fact, it really relies on the key piece of the growth of the character and her making mistakes.
Take for example Steven Universe, a show which features a group of feminine aliens who save the world with their awesome powers called the Crystal Gems. The Crystal Gems are made up of Garnet, Amethyst, and Pearl. Pearl is gifted in the sense of wisdom and academia, not to mention sword fighting as well. While at the same time cynical, Pearl grows throughout the show to be more open-minded and understanding of humans and even her own race. Of course the main character Steven is also a wonderful example for boys who are more empathetic and sensitive. All of the ladies in this show are fierce and have their own strengths. Pearl was chosen due to her containing the qualities which have become so common in strong women characters. Pearl was a haughty and slightly unempathetic character done right due to the fact that she grows from her mistakes. Also Pearl is not always correct morally. This makes her so interesting and wonderful!
Ergo strength does not equate to being mean or rude, and weakness does not equate to being kind.