9 Things We’d Like To See More Of In Fictional Female Characters

In the last few years, Hollywood has definitely upped its game when it comes to female characters. There are more female leads in movies and TV shows, there are more stories that revolve around women, and things have gotten a little more diverse. We’ve got Insecure, told from the perspective of a young black woman who describes herself as awkward, a story not often told. There was Big Little Lies, a huge hit because it was wonderfully done, but also because it gave us a range of female characters who were complex and interesting in so many ways. We can watch Broad City, the female version of all of those silly dude buddy-buddy shows we’ve always had. And then there are all the strong female leads, like Katniss Everdeen and Wonder woman.

This is all fantastic, but Hollywood can still do better. Like Reese Witherspoon said at the Emmy Awards, it’s time to “bring women to the front of their own stories and make them the hero of their own stories.” There are some great fictional female leads out there, but there are so many ways the entertainment industry can continue improving. A recent Ask Reddit thread discussed what we’d like to see more of in female characters, and it’s all on point. Here are a few things that need to happen more often for female leads:

Women Who Look The Part

You know when a woman in a movie is supposed to be this super strong female heroine who kicks ass and beats everyone up? And then the actress weighs, like, 100 pounds and has no visible muscle? Yeah, that... doesn't add up. User AromaticHydrocarbons says, "If it is a female lead who is supposed to be some strong, fit and highly physically capable woman, then use a lead who actually looks strong with big strong thighs and arms/shoulders. Don't use a waif like lady who doesn't appear to be genuinely capable of the stunts her character pulls off. Just like men, if women are exceptionally strong and physically talented they will look it. They may not get as big as men, but they won't look like a woman who is simply slim with minimal muscle definition."

There's obviously nothing wrong with being skinny and not having a lot of muscle definition, but it's frustrating to see strong female parts being taken by tiny, skinny girls. Thin girls can be strong too, of course, but if a lead is supposed to be muscular, then she should be! Million Dollar Baby got it right with Hillary Swank.

More Friendships That Don't Exist Just To Discuss Guys

One really annoying thing about a lot of movies and TV shows is that they never show an accurate depiction of female friendships - a friend usually just exists to keep the viewer informed on how the lead feels about things, especially romantic relationships. User InsertWittyJokes explains, "More casual female friendships. TV always makes female friendships out to always be 'eeee girls night out' or 'guuurl you didn't need him anyways come over to my place, I bought wine'. It just doesn't feel authentic to me. Female friendship is usually only shown on screen in order to talk about relationships or getting over a man or something other external, it's never about the friendship itself. They never show female friends just being casual. Playfully ribbing each other, talking about stupid inconsequential things, being lazy together, nerding out over favorite movies, having casual physical contact."

This is such a problem with Hollywood that the Bechdel test was created, which asks whether two female characters can talk to each other about more than just relationship stuff. You rarely see real friendships on shows and movies. I think Rory and Paris from Gilmore Girls are a good example of a realistic depiction of female friendship: they talk about much more than just relationship stuff (in fact, they often do not discuss love), they're a little jealous and competitive with each other and that feels very real, and they aren't always telling each other sappy, stereotypical "girl" things about how much they love each other.

More Variety In Personalities

In Hollywood, it seems like every female character has to fit a specific type, which means that the characters often don't feel very complex or interesting. A user who has since deleted their account said, "Just more variety in terms of personality would be amazing. Most female characters are either the over the top cold, sassy badass or the super sensible and sometimes timid woman. There's such a wide variety of personalities that exist between those two extremes that I feel like I don't see nearly enough."

I think one of the reasons Big Little Lies was such a hit was that it offered up a cast of female characters who had more to their personality than what met the eye. The characters had depth and seemed more real, they didn't just fit a cookie cutter stereotype - and we loved to see that. More like that, please!

More Platonic Friendships With Men

One thing Hollywood is really annoying about? Showing that guys and girls can be friends without getting it on or falling in love with each other. User phoenixnoir says, "I'd like to see female leads having more platonic relationships with men. I've always gravitated more towards guys when it comes to friendships, and I'd like to be able to watch a show without expecting a man and a woman to get together. Platonic relationships are so rare in the media. A good example of this is the Big Bang Theory. All of the women on that show just had to be paired up with someone. They couldn't just be another friend in the group, they had to date one of the men because why else would they consider hanging out with a woman...?"

It's Always Sunny In Philadelphia does a pretty good job of showing male and female friendships, and honestly? I'm having trouble thinking of other shows and moves that do the same.

Less Badass, Intimidating Characters

For a long time, Hollywood was only offering women stereotypical feminine roles that we all got sick of seeing. And now? Most female leads have to be the definition of badass. Basically they need to find a happy middle. User rikisha explains, "More women who are not the 'kickass strong independent genius sexy beautiful warrior' archetype. I feel like women in movies always have to fit some definition of 'badass.' People praise films for having 'strong female characters,' where 'strong' usually means that she's a good fighter, a mega-genius or at the top of her profession (all at the age of 25, of course!). That's all fine and dandy, but the women I know in real life don't fit that archetype. Not all women in real life are 'strong' and that's okay. I want to see shy, insecure women. Quirky, hilarious older women with cutting sarcasm. Older women, period. Women who aren't too bright but have a huge heart. Women who aren't too physically attractive but 'get the guy' anyway. Depressed women, anxious women. Flowery, poetic women. Basically anything but 'badass.' I'm over it. I can't relate to it."

Less Classically Beautiful Women

This complaint has been around for so long, but we'll say it again: we'd love to see more "normal" looking women in lead roles rather than just Hollywood standard beautiful. User Moritani says, "If the script has people calling the woman "plain" or "average," cast someone plain or average. Actually, having fat/average/ugly women in leading roles in general would be nice. I can point to plenty of tubby dudes in TV and film, but nowhere near as many ladies."

There are so many male actors who are pretty "average" and "normal" looking who get tons of lead roles and great storylines. For women? Not so much. A lot of users pointed out that British media does a great job of that, but as for America, the only example I can think of is Lena Dunham on Girls.

Less Perfect Makeup

User SylvianWrath says, "Women in movies need to stop waking up from sleep with perfect make-up and expertly tousled hair. This is why men are so goddamned confused about what 'natural' actually looks like." Ugh, yes! Remember that scene in Bridesmaids when Kristen Wiig wakes up and puts on makeup, fixes her hair, and brushes her teeth before getting back into bed to pretend she just woke up that way? That was gold. Let's stop pretending women wake up looking perfectly made up.

Appropriate Shoes

My only big complaint with Jurassic World was that Bryce Dallas Howard ran away from dinosaurs in heels. Not only that, she worked with dinosaurs while wearing heels and a tight suit. Come ON. User sumsumsumaaa says, "When they are running, have the characters wear appropriate footwear. Like who the hell actually runs at full sprint in 5 inch knee high stilettos? No one. That's who." It sounds silly, but it's annoying!

No Romantic Plots

User mrsmooneypieshop says, "No romantic plot, not getting sexually overtaken, not sexualized, etc. For now I like Disney's new female driven plots like Moana and Brave since the plot isn't driven by a love line." Like, yes, we all love a good romance story, but can't there be more movies and shows where the female lead isn't focused on relationship stuff? There can be!

You can follow the author, Jessica Booth, on Twitter or Instagram.


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