Forget about kicking ass.
That’s not the metric you need to worry about.
The only ass that your female character need to kick is the ass of the story — that’s the power you want to give them. The power of agency. They can be sexy and sexual without being sexualized or objectified. They can kick ass or not kick ass or have Power or Not Have Powers as long as you elevate them above mere action figures (“Look how poseable she is when she does her sexy high-kicks!”) They can be vulnerable or flawed or unlikeable as long as you treat them like real people, not like video game characters or a list of abilities or dolls or lamps or The Reason That Dude Does The Thing He’s Meant To Do. They’re not proxies, they’re not mannequins, they’re not mirrors, they’re not Walking Talking FleshLights, they’re not princesses in towers waiting to be saved, they’re not emotionless ass-kicking chicks who still don’t kick as much ass as the hero. I’d even argue that calling them “female characters” has its problems because it sounds clinical, distant, a characteristic, a check box, a footnote.
Think of them as women or as girls.
Think of them as people.
I have noticed a trend of responding to our posts with a claim that since x creator made y character who did z thing – they create great female characters and can do no wrong.
This approach is particularly baffling since it has a number of unfortunate implications:
- Up until the character did the thing (usually at the end of their personal arc) they were (for most of the story) a terrible character.
- Quality of character is not determined by characterisation, but rather if the creator decides the character will do the thing.
- Character writing should not be about making characters who are amazing and yet relatable – but rather a kind of arms race to see whose character can do the most amazing thing.
- There is a magical difference between amateur fan fiction and professional creations (which are often fan fiction anyway). Because the arms race of doing the greatest thing in amateur writing something to be scorned.
- All the millions spent on motion capture, improvements to cinematic cutscenes, voice actors, extended dialogues, etc is completely wasted. We could just be presented with a bullet point list of character achievements.
While it’s easy to classify a character based off their function in the plot, the thing that makes real characters great is things like how they come to their decisions, how fiercely they love, how they find the strength to carry on in the face of defeat, etc.
Without all of that they’re not characters, they’re just plot elements.