Posted on 1 Comment

Being Badass Does Not Equate to Strength and Complexity

By: Ritobrita Mishra

Whether it’s through the medium of television, films, or books, female characters are somehow always represented as being either the badass bitch or the naive innocent beauty. Sometimes both are combined to form a hybrid of the two. Often these characteristics define the character and woman itself making it their whole identity. Their actions and decisions are in tune with their identity being either of the two which becomes the entirety of their character. The badass persona in particular is something that has become a popular trope in recent media adding to a narrative that there is only one form of strength that women should aspire to. This becomes problematic as it never gives women any real development in their character but instead simplifies  them into a version where they become stagnant characters without any real complexity or growth. 

The trope of the badass female character usually embodies the energy of what society has deemed being masculine. This character usually takes charge of the situation, never shows their true emotions, and always asserts the fact that they are dangerous.  

They take on the more masculine role while maintaining their feminine appeal through their beauty and physique, while never showing how they truly feel. This combination of beauty and danger  is there to attract the male character and the male audience, therefore diminishing the female character and trope altogether as they wholey exist because of the man. Another problem with this trope is that it associates strength with physical strength. These characters are always able to handle themselves in fight scenes and while that is amazing to watch, the concept of what strength is becomes simplified and there is no added complexity to the character itself. Thus making them less relatable to watch. 

The main problem of this trope is that it isn’t until the badass woman meets the man in which they start to discover their femininity. They become a lot more emotional  afterwards and start to grow more as character through their feminine side. Though that is not always the case with all the women that are written into this trope, the man however always seems to play a part that later adds to their journey and growth as a character. This therefore misleads the viewer into thinking that physicality is what defines the woman to be a strong and meeting a man will solve everything, therefore misdirecting what is strength is to the viewer itself. 

Another downside of this  trope is that it stunts the development and growth within the female character and makes them an accessory of the man altogether.  Examples of characters that embody this trope throughout the narratives and stories they are in are Letty Ortiz (Fast and Furious), Captain Marvel (Captain Marvel), Wasp (Ant Man) and Lara Croft (Tomb Raider). All of these characters can be better developed and given more complexity without a man feeding it to them or having their physical strength and beauty be what defines them. They all fall under the trope of badass women who have had to reject or succumb to their femininity. The Wasp and Lara Croft both choose to embody the hypersexual portrayal of women and as a result they don’t strive for any further complexity.   They become stagnant characters as they realize the only way they can attain the most power in society is through their hypersexuality. Captain Marvel and Letty Ortiz strongly reject the notion of femininity and fight against the norms placed upon them but in the end only become static characters with no significant changes to their personality. Just because they are hypermasculine does not mean they are any more complex than the first two as there is no noteworthy character development that is separated from their masculine personality. 

All of these characters lack a certain amount of  depth and therefore become uninteresting to watch.  They only display one emotion until the man provokes them to act out and reach their feminine side which again speaks to how their character progression depends entirely on the man. Their sense of individuality is overtaken by this trope and essentially limits these characters to be more of a black and white without any shades of grey. This trope altogether implies that badass women like the examples given previously are rebellious who reject the norms that are placed upon them, but in reality these characters are just one-dimensional who have no real sense of agency as their purpose lies solely for the man. 

1 thought on “Being Badass Does Not Equate to Strength and Complexity

  1. How do you think “Mary Sue” type characters fall into this argument?