I was talking to people at Thought Bubble last weekend that I was pleased that Women In Comics, Gays In Comics and similar panels seemed to have moved beyond the 101 addressing of the very basics and have moved into more advanced territory of late. That might not be the case everywhere, because for some audiences it seems those basics still need addressing. Jason Strangis reported from the recent Stan Lee's Comickaze,
From the Bad Girls of Gotham to the hot new Supergirl TV series to the highly-anticipated big-screen appearance of Harley Quinn in next year's Suicide Squad, strong female characters seem to be everywhere these days.
There's still much room for improvement when it comes to giving women equal play (and pay?) in the movies and television, and that subject was explored during a panel at Stan Lee's Comikaze called Beyond Babes and Bullets: Exploring the Strong Female Character.
Appropriately, it was a "girl power" panel of strong females who weren't shy about voicing their opinions on this intriguing subject matter. Most of the panel members seemed to think that strong female characters have been under-represented and under-used when it comes to Hollywood.
"What I'm hoping for is to see fully-rounded, real women," said panelist Amber Garza (Geeks OUT). She pointed to Charlize Theron's powerful role in Mad Max: Fury Road as a strong portrayal of what women can accomplish.
Sadly, though, panel members pointed out there aren't enough of these type of characters. One panel member felt there is often only a ratio of one female to four or five males in action-adventure movies. To this point, it's important to make female characters "a focus in the story," said Cutcha Risling Baldy, who teaches a class on The Walking Dead in American Indian Studies.
It's also crucial that female characters aren't just there to serve the male hero's story, said Marissa Stotter (She Makes Comics).
"The word token comes to mind when talking about female characters," said Grace Gipson, a graduate student in African-American studies. "It restricts us creatively."
P. Kristen Enos, a writer and activist, feels women in movies and TV often seem to be expendable, and others on the panel seemed to agree.
Panel members talked about the all-female Ghostbusters movie set to come out soon. This brought up discussion about whether Hollywood moviemakers sometimes feel the need to overcompensate with an all-female cast, given the poor track record of female leads in the past. One panel member stated that Hollywood will do what it takes to make money on a movie, regardless of whether it's male or female driven.
As to what makes a "strong female character," Stotter stated: "They can be flawed and unlikable." Others noted that vulnerability can often be used as strength.
Toward the end of the panel, an audience member asked why there weren't more all-out wicked female villains on screen. Again, the point was brought out that on many occasions wicked women such as the Evil Queen in Once Upon a Time are often balanced with a good side…
Stan Lee was once asked if his superheroes were sexist, and replied "did you say sexy?" There are plenty of conversations, on all levels, to be had…