Joss Whedon is one of my big genre heroes (I’m sure that’s no surprise) and yes, I was devastated when I heard that he wasn’t going to direct Wonder Woman. And I was listening to an interview with him (Amazon put it up as part of the Serenity CE DVD release promo) and one of the things he says is (I’m paraphrasing, because there’s no way I’m going to listen closely enough to transcribe it) that Battlestar Galactica is one of the best shows ever … and when the interviewer mentions “strong women”, which Joss is known for, Joss kind of shrugs that off and says that part of the reason it’s so great is because it has moved beyond that trend of “wow, strong female!” (and is what he was doing with Firefly, too).
So with Buffy, it was “oh, wow, look at that strong female character!” — but Battlestar Galactica doesn’t even acknowledge it, but just assumes that women are strong, or weak, or just people. It’s a given. And he goes on to say that this is more common in shows like ER — but that in genre, it’s not so common.
Mostly, I’m blabbing because I’m in a hurry, but it really caught my attention because it’s something I thought a lot about writing the last book. Lilith, Selah, Savi, I didn’t really think of in terms of strength or weakness, they just were and did what they had to do. But Charlie was something different, and I really wondered what the difference was … and why.
And I know this has come up several times in discussions about romance — that appreciation for a strong woman — but is there any sign that the romance genre is moving past that? Any signs of a time when we aren’t so surprised by it? When “strong female character” doesn’t have to be spelled out? (To me, that doesn’t necessarily mean someone who kicks ass … but who is complex and has an inner strength. Depth of character, I guess.)
Then there are some authors whose work you don’t have to say it, because you just *know* it’ll have that type of character, because that author writes them consistently as just people. Nora Roberts is the easy example, and someone I’d say as an author has moved beyond that need to spell it out. When someone says Nora’s written a strong (complex!) female character, my response is kind of, “well, duh” — just as if Joss had written a female character. But is that “duh” response just as telling … that it’s still so much the norm to read about not-really-strong, not-really-complex characters that we know which authors write the ones who aren’t? That I have a mental category for “authors who write women that seem strong and real to me”?
Because the defense of romance (for lack of a better term than defense) always seems to include the note that the female characters aren’t like they used to be … that now they are strong. But will this ever be a given, just as they are at an individual author level? Or will we have to keep adding that adjective forever? I like the idea of moving beyond it … but is it something that just happens?
Gah, sorry this is incoherent. Anyway. Love that guy.