It’s no question that over the decades Hollywood has put in some major effort in portraying diverse female characters. Characters who don’t make up a project’s quota for diversity, but showcasing three dimensional characters who represents actual experiences. A phenomenally developed female character can be a great asset to any show or film; no matter if she’s the breathtaking lead or scene stealing side character. I can’t imagine not having characters like Raven, Prudence, Luna, Hermione, Mystique, Toph and Azula just to name a few. However, as Hollywood creates more female representation on screen naturally we’re going to get characters that blow us away, roll our eyes and everything in between. You win some, you lose some. But it doesn’t take a microscope to see that female characters who are labeled as ‘annoying’, ‘arrogant’, ‘stubborn’ or even ‘frustrating’ are judged by a harsher set of rules than their male counterparts. So this Women’s History Month, let’s begin the necessary conversation around the double standards ‘annoying’ female characters face and why they’re so necessary.
Before you get your pitchforks and call me unreasonable, let’s have a breather shall we? I totally get it. We all have our fandoms and we’re passionate about these characters. Yet, if there’s one character/show that’s felt the blunt force of these double standards is Korra the lead protagonist of self-titled show The Legend of Korra. If you know me or have been reading my work for sometime you not only know how much I love Korra, but believes she gets unnecessarily hated on. Korra has been degraded and picked apart by alleged ‘fans’ on factors like her sexuality, gender and appearance. But, aside from never giving the plot a chance and, you know a heavy heaping of misogyny, ‘fans’ swear Korra’s personality is the issue. She’s too stubborn, arrogant, hotheaded, annoying, weak and so forth, as a result making her the worst avatar. Here’s the thing: Korra needs to be annoying. Most people haven’t mastered their emotional and spiritual growth at twelve years old, at least I didn’t. Aang is without question a badass, but isn’t an accurate representative of a normal twelve year old. If you disagree, put down the cactus juice my friend. Korra isn’t perfect, by a longshot and that’s okay. Yes she is hotheaded, stubborn and annoying, but so is majority of teenagers at Korra’s age like myself. I saw my flaws in this character’s flaws and I felt so seen, but I understand that some viewers don’t like to have their flaws mirrored back at them. However, for the creators of Korra to give us a flawed hero not only normalizes the notion we’re not perfect not even our heroes.
Female characters can’t be recycled versions of the same traits: polite, sweet, kind, quirky, smart, seductive and strong (whatever that means). If real life women struggle, fail and mess up, why shouldn’t the women on screen? In the Chilling Adventures of Sabrina, the show’s protagonist is a prime example. Teenage witch Sabrina has juggled many labels within her own universe, but in ours (especially on Twitter) she’s been deemed annoying, hardheaded and stubborn. I’ll be frank I’m more of a Prudence stan myself. However, let’s be honest with ourselves if we found out we were part witch on our sixteen birthday we’d lucky if we handled half a decent as Sabrina. Yet, these same traits that this character (and many like her) get hounded over would’ve been celebrated had the character’s gender been different. So it’s no shocker that Sabrina is considered ‘obnoxious’ when Nicholas isn’t. Why do we love male characters that are complex and forgive their missteps all the while judging their female counterparts extremely more harshly?
Female characters that don’t fit the status quo by being ‘obnoxious’ or ‘annoying’ are extremely needed for diverse storytelling. Aside from being realistic portrayals of the women’s lives, while enduring double standards, they can also represent communities who’s felt left out. Last year, I watched She-Ra and the Princess of Power and was absolutely blown away. The character that quickly had me in awe was Entrapta; she wasn’t the ‘usual’ female heroine and easily became one of my top two favorites. No Entrapta slander will be tolerated. She was ‘stubborn’, ‘hardheaded’, ‘loud’ and represented the autistic community without compromising to fit into a mold. Many both on and off the autistic spectrum saw themselves in a character who struggled with being different. Begging the question where has characters like her been all this time?
Characters like Korra, Sabrina and Entrapta need to exist because we need to give up the tired act of brushing women’s issues under the rug, for the sake of not making the men in the room uncomfortable. If we love male characters for these traits, we can’t put female characters through a different set of rules. If there’s anything these women have taught us, is that our ‘flaws’ can be our best assets.