Masculine traits don’t have to be annoying in a woman, but they often are.
I noticed a tendency among some girl friends and myself to find female movie/literature/game characters profoundly annoying if they are masculine and have these “tough girl” traits. They are called “strong female characters”, but for some reason it fails to produce admiration. One of my gamer friends never plays girl characters in games for that reason. Playing as an old man is so much better, she says. Some guy friends I know said they laugh when they see these action girls in movies, often under 100 lbs, beat the hell out of a bunch of 200lbs+ men.
However, there ARE some good female fictional characters with strength and even masculinity that don’t produce negative feelings. I’m burning with curiosity to find out what exactly makes them different. I always liked Ellen Ripley from the Alien movies. I even liked the military woman Vasquez. Heck, I even kinda liked Charlie’s Angels, even though the movies were stupid. I hated Lara Croft, played by Angelina Jolie (not Angelina herself), and I hated the Bride from Kill Bill.
I’m also into making long adventure stories. In my teens, I felt it was hard to create a really good and strong female character, as a lot of my “strong female character” creation attempts ended up in just another Lara Croft. When trying to create my own characters, I always wondered why my female characters, possessing the same traits as my favorite male movie characters, just don’t feel as cool as the original, while my coolest characters that my friends love are always male.
However, with age I managed to create much better female characters. Yet even after I fixed the problem, I can’t articulate what I changed. Strong female character – I know it when I see it!
Why do people create “Lara Crofts”? Perhaps their writer is turned on by action chicks (Tarantino was called both feminist and misogynist for his Kill Bill, but I think he just thinks it’s cool and possibly hot to have women fighting). Or perhaps their writer wants to be like them and is creating a shameless Mary Sue. Perhaps these characters seem annoying, because they are only there for satisfying desires of certain people’s ego. Like Twilight.
“Ellen Ripleys” are, on the other hand, possessing greatness of their own, and don’t inspire annoyance. You are engaged by this character,you’re interested in their mental processes, you care what happens to them, you want her to defeat the alien and be home safely. Ellen Ripleys are like Shakespeare, rather than Twilight.
The annoying “strong female characters” have nothing more to them than their femaleness and their toughness. They don’t have enough depth to care about them. They feel like carbon copies of one-dimensional male action heroes, but with boobs. They are a cardboard cutout of a cardboard cutout. The genuine ones, like Ripley, feel like real humans with real personalities. They can be admirable, they can be stupid and funny, but they are always intriguing.
This leads me to believe that masculinity itself (or strength) is not in general the problem, it’s lack of character development. And I think this might even apply to real women, and not only fictional women. Present yourself the right way and you will be seen as admirable. Present yourself wrong and you’re seen as a bitchy upstart.
However, I want readers’ opinions. Is masculinity itself annoying in a woman, or the lack of positive traits?