Actresses Elle Fanning and Jenna Ortega recently shared their thoughts on Hollywood’s push to have female characters be “badass” and “strong.”
Fanning brought up the subject as part of Variety’s Actors on Actors after briefly discussing her role as Catherine the Great in the television series The Great.
Fanning said, “I don’t know if you feel like this, but like when reading scripts it like they love describing women as like badass, strong, and they’re always coming into a room, and they know everything, and it’s like, ‘Oh, that’s a strong woman.’ It’s like I don’t wanna watch that. I’m not like that.”
She continued, “I love complicated women and I wanna play evil women and that messiness is like that’s what I feel like I try to bring that into Catherine because she’s not always right all the time, you know.”
Ortega then shared, “Also, when you’re not watching a project, you want to feel like the characters are representatives that you’re seeing of yourself on screen are relatable or attainable.”
“And when you’re constantly walking and there’s cars blowing up in the background, and things like that, it’s cool and it’s awesome, it looks beautiful, but I don’t know anything about her. So it’s hard to develop some sort of admiration or connection with women when they’re written very two-dimensional and don’t really give you enough.”
Fanning then said, “It’s like to be a strong woman you have to be this, to be… You know, it’s like, again, putting us into a box again. So I think I’m very grateful for Tony’s writing of getting to kind of show the different sides.”
Ortega noted, “And for it to be accurate and feel good to you, and relatable to you.”
Fanning concluded the segment discussing her Catherine the Great character, “I think she has a huge ego. Like she’s very egotistical, which is one of like, I love playing that side of her. It’s so fun.”
Fanning and Ortega are not the only ones to express this opinion. Emily Blunt, who stars in the upcoming Oppenheimer film, told the Telegraph last November, “It’s the worst thing ever when you open a script and read the words ‘strong female lead.’ That makes me roll my eyes. I’m already out. I’m bored.”
Blunt then shared, “Those roles are written as incredibly stoic, you spend the whole time acting tough and saying tough things.”
She-Hulk Attorney at Law actress Tatiana Maslany also told The Guardian the sees the “strong female lead” trope as “reductive. It’s just as much a shaving off of all the nuances, and just as much of a trope. It’s a box that nobody fits into. Even the phrase is frustrating. It’s as if we’re supposed to be grateful that we get to be that.”
Emma Thompson also informed Culture Blast, “So all the women screenwriters I talk to, I say, ‘Well, what’s the story?’ Because it’s not good enough simply to give the women the guns, and then make the women badass, as well.”
She added, “Now women have to be badass — if they’re feminine in the way that they used to be, and they’re not badass, then they’re not welcome. Also, they’re not allowed to cry, apparently, anymore, because we’ve just got to be like the men.”
“And I remember thinking, ‘Well, that’s not what we meant.’ When I got a group of women together in my thirties, and I said, ‘Okay, what’s the female heroine? Who is that? What does she do?’ Because she hasn’t got the wherewithal to do the Superman, to do the Godfather, that’s not the point,” Thompson shared. “That’s not where our heroism lies. So how do we make it heroic?”
What do you make of Fanning and Ortega coming out against the strong female stereotype that has perpetrated Hollywood and much of genre films and television series?