Let’s Discuss: The Badass Heroine

I never liked Cinderella, Aurora, or Snow White. Instead, I found myself admiring characters like Mulan and Anastasia, women who were strong and didn’t need a man to save them. However, even in the 90’s, these characters were sparse, and there was still this misconception that strength wasn’t beautiful.

Today, girls are growing up with powerful role models like Moana and Katniss, among many others. It’s wonderful seeing women taking the lead,  going on their own adventures, and fighting their own battles. Quite frankly, I still want more of it.

But recently, it feels like the strong female character has become more about a trope than representing real women, especially in young adult literature. There’s Celaena, the badass assassin;  Eliana Ferracora, the feared bounty hunter; and Mare Barrow, the bitter thief.  There’s this trend where the female protagonist’s strength comes from a place of anger, crime, and darkness. And while there’s nothing wrong with that, this isn’t the only way to represent strength.

While I understand that a tortured hero makes for an interesting story, there’s something to be said about a person who discovers their strength, not someone who has always had it. I think there’s something to be said about vulnerability, because being vulnerable does not mean being weak. And I think that darkness shouldn’t always be equated with strength.

I suppose, more than anything, that this is a trend. While I like it just as many other readers, I think it’s growing tired. More often than not, it feels like the authors only wanted to create a shocking female lead, so they crafted a “personality” and history around that idea. Essentially, plot and character development seems to come second to the shock factor, kind of like directors who go wild with special effects just because it looks cool.

Personally, I’d like to see less orphans with a tragic past or whatever, and more characters stemming from a more mundane background. After all, not every strong heroine has to have a troubled past or a deadly career.

In the end, there isn’t anything wrong with this trope. Honestly, I love a good female lead. But it would be nice to see something different, instead of the same old character in the same familiar situation.

So what do you think? Let me know your thoughts in the comments below! 🙂

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9 thoughts on “Let’s Discuss: The Badass Heroine

  1. Kaleena @ Reader Voracious says:

    “While I understand that a tortured hero makes for an interesting story, there’s something to be said about a person who discovers their strength, not someone who has always had it. I think there’s something to be said about vulnerability, because being vulnerable does not mean being weak. And I think that darkness shouldn’t always be equated with strength.”

    WOW this really resonated with me and I couldn’t agree more. It is pretty well known that I love strong female characters, you are absolutely right. I actually prefer those that discover their strength and dislike the tropey badass bitch with knives who is just mean. Strength doesn’t have to me hard.

    Great post.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Megan says:

      Thanks! 🙂 I’m glad to see you agree! I was wondering if I’d be the outsider haha. But yeah, exactly. Strength doesn’t have to be hard, and I’m totally getting tired of seeing that in fiction.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. bookbeachbunny says:

    Really appreciate this post. While I love a “badass” I think it leads and has lead to essentially another locked room for female characters in books, movies, television in that all we get is the badass. And I’ve seen that in responses. These characters are popular, especially with males, until they do something “soft,” “or female.” Ugh. I could go on to long. I’m with you I want more well-rounded female characters. Not just how many people can this girl kill.

    Like

    • Megan says:

      Yeah, I definitely agree with you. I hadn’t thought of it as a “locked room”, but yeah, that’s a good way of putting it. It’s so frustrating. While I’m happy that women are being represented as tough, it still has this almost fantasy-like component to it. I like when characters feel real, and real people aren’t so one dimensional.

      Like

  3. FairytaleFeminista says:

    I agree that the “empowered female lead” is getting a little one note. I think it happens more often than not because in too many stories (books, tv, and movies) have just the one female character who has any depth. The other women in the story are left as window dressing, which in turn makes it impossible to see more than one story. And in order to get the vast majority of people interested in a story centered around a female in our superhero-loving world (of which I am one, free-admitting it) is to make the lead as powerful and flawed as possible. And the short-hand for that is a women with a dark past who has to overcome with brutal strength (both emotional and physical).

    I don’t think we need less of this trope, I just think we need more women within a story that we want to get to know. All with their own version of vulnerability.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Megan says:

      Definitely. It’s sad that this is the norm. I guess I’m not a superhero fan, but I get the draw to this kind of character, and I definitely don’t think it should go away. Like you, I just want to see more women with different complexities and strength represented in different ways.

      Liked by 1 person

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