How do you define a strong female character? During a recent BBC radio special, Neil Gaiman was asked how he might go about writing a daughter of Buffy (the Vampire Slayer) which led to Gaiman to discuss what some authors get wrong when created “strong” female characters – namely taking the term too literally.
Gaiman: I always feel like the wrong person to be asked when I get asked that question because people say, ‘Well how do you write such good female characters?’ And I go, ‘Well I write people.’ Approximately half of the people I know are female and they’re cool, and they’re interesting, and so, why wouldn’t I? In the case of making the TARDIS a person, you make her the kind of person you’d like to meet.”
Alderman: This gives me nothing to help people with who cannot write good female characters, and they do exist.
Gaiman: I think the big thing to point out to people is, you know, possibly they should go and hang around with some women. And also, it’s worth pointing out that people, unfortunately, misunderstand the phrase ‘strong women.’ The glory of Buffy is it was filled with strong women. Only one of those strong women had supernatural strength and an awful lot of sharpened stakes. And people sort of go ‘Well yes, of course Buffy was a strong woman. She could kick her way through a door.’ And you go ‘No, well that’s not actually what makes her a strong woman! You’re missing the point.’
Do you agree? Is giving a female character super strength simply not enough to combat weak, one-dimensional stereotypes of women? Or could you interpret that strength as a metaphor?
I’d like to read about more complex, well-written, emotionally strong women who can also throw a punch (if need be) but I’m very demanding.