For a lot of people, there are certain characters from certain media that resonate with them very strongly. They can personally identify with them, relate to them, or even feel empowered by them. This is the opposite. Don’t worry, I intend to do posts on the characters and movies I DO love, but I want to get this out of the way before it boils up inside me. So, here are five female (or in one case, femme) characters that are widely beloved, but I look at them and go “Oh, it’s that person”. Please note, if YOU like any of these characters or find personal empowerment from them, that’s great! More power to you! I won’t bother you! But for me, they just don’t personally click. They are:
Number Five: Jane Porter (from Disney’s Tarzan)
Yeah. I feel really bad because as a PERSON, she’s not bad at all (I can’t say the same for most of the other characters in this list). She’s good, she’s kind, adorably awkward (before that character trait became annoying), and has interests beside men. But I think the character is woefully overhyped. For starters, her design is terrible. I’m really sorry, but that’s the main reason why I never got behind this character. She has no waist, her eyes are enormous, and her nose…good god, her nose. It does this weird dip on the bridge and the tip is on a loop. I mean the other designs of the Disney Heroines in the 90s were kind of problematic, but something about this design throws me off. She looks almost like a 2D version of Elsa (who has been widely criticized for having a terrible/sexist design). I wish she was given a better design. Secondly, I hate how we have a trope where we’re introduced to a character that’s ‘strong’, but is constantly a damsel in distress. I hate how at the climax she starts helping out but then is conveniently pushed aside (literally) for the man to save the day. Worst of all, I can’t help but find the relationship with her and Tarzan really creepy. Like…he’s a wild man raised all his life in the jungle. He disrespected her boundaries and personal space multiple times, and kept pressuring her to stay with him (even at one point tricking her to say “Jane stays with Tarzan” in gorilla talk). There’s a power imbalance because she literally has to teach Tarzan how to speak, read, be cultured, and have proper manners, and he literally has to save her life all the time. And she ultimately decides to abandon everything (save for her father) to live with him in the jungle forever? No. No. Though then again, maybe she wanted to get away from British sexism? In that case, I can understand. But this is a woman who literally abandons almost everything for a MAN. That’s…not good. So yeah. That’s why I can’t latch on to Jane as much as everyone else can. She deserved better.
Number Four: Captain Amelia (from Treasure Planet)
Again, TERRIBLE design (an idealistic, impossible body shape and a face that dips into the uncanny valley for me), but the treatment of this character is just plain insulting. You actually make her likable and give her a generous amount of power, making her the captain of her own damn ship, and give her some depth and personality, and actually do some heroic acts a few times, and what do you do? You give her a vague but serious injury for no damn reason and maker her delusional and overly dependent on men for the rest of the movie? Bullshit. There was no reason why she couldn’t have played an active part at the end of the movie. You CANNOT introduce a strong character and then make her a damsel just to bring up the men. Ugh. Another character who deserved so much better.
Number Three: Pearl (from Steven Universe)
This character gets hailed for being a complex character with mental illnesses and/or autism and a lesbian even though literally every other Gem in the show exhibits almost the exact same traits. She is very and unnecessarily rude and sometimes cruel to Amethyst and Greg, projects her dead lover onto that lover’s son, and at one point violates Garnet’s trust. The worst offenses were when she almost LET STEVEN DIE because she wanted to be alone with Rose’s sword and groomed Connie (a little brown girl) into believing her only purpose was to protect Steven. At no point does Pearl ever truly apologize or make up for what she does, and most of the episodes where she fucks up asks the audience to sympathize with HER. Ugh. I hate how overly popular this character is. She’s disgusting. And worse, in order to for the show to make her out into the character we’re supposed to love and sympathize with the most, they make her (the whitest and skinniest Gem) part of a slave race. Yes, WHITE, SKINNY GEMS are slaves apparently. Okay. Sorry, this got really negative, but it’s like, Peridot has done a lot of disgusting things (and she really, really shouldn’t be a Crystal Gem; she was way more likable and interesting as a comedic villain), but again, she was originally a VILLAIN. Pearl is a character we were always supposed to like, and at one point actually did some noble things (like trying to comfort Steven when she got stabbed), but has regressed dramatically. I’m sorry, but I’m just tired of all the praise this character gets. Garnet is better in every way.
Number Two: Anna and Elsa (from Frozen)
You probably knew this was coming. I don’t understand why, out of all the Disney Princesses, THESE two were hailed as the best, just because they’re sisters and they have a ‘bond’. I’m going to make this brief because honestly I’ve talked waaay too much about Frozen on this site. Basically, I wanted Elsa (who is coded to be mentally ill and is much more interesting) to be the main character. Instead, she’s pushed to the side. After “Let It Go”, instead of actively doing things to correct her mistakes, she’s always running away, always wailing about how she ‘can’t control her powers’, and needs to be reminded ‘oh yeah, love!’ in order to unfreeze Arendelle. And instead of deciding on a solution to help her get over her mental problems without totally abandoning her kingdom, she is forced to stay and be queen (even though she has demonstrated she is in no way ready to be queen) and can only use her powers for the most benign things. Oh, and when she freezes Anna’s heart, she doesn’t even ask “Oh god, Anna, are you okay?”, she chases her out, and then acts shocked when she’s told Anna’s dead. Ugh. And as for Anna? She’s annoying, she’s constantly told “you can’t marry a man you just met!” (but gets with a guy she’s known for only about three days), constantly needs a man to save her (if it weren’t for Oaken, Kristoff, and Olaf, she’d be frozen dead), and makes Elsa’s problems all about her. These two do NOT have a healthy, happy sisterly love, nor are they really great characters in their own right, and I’m completely shocked that they’ve taken the world by storm.
Number One: Joy (from Inside Out)
Oh god. If you’ve gone through my blog, you know that I’m one of the few people that doesn’t like Inside Out. And honestly, Joy is the main reason why. She. Is. AWFUL. Like legit awful. She is mean, selfish, pushy, cruel, and a complete ASSHOLE to poor Sadness. I know the point of the movie is how ‘we try to be happy to repress our sadness’ (lol yeah because that’s ALWAYS how people cope with being sad), but when you anthropomorphize your emotions like these, there’s no way I can read these characters as just metaphors. I see them as people. And I read this as a mean control freak who bullies a depressed character. And what’s worse, instead of changing because, you know, bullying someone is fucking awful, she realizes “oh shit, sadness is important!” REALLY? DO PEOPLE NEED TO PROVE THEY’RE IMPORTANT IN ORDER TO GAIN RESPECT? Ugh. I legit hate this character more than any other. I feel like I could have liked the movie a lot more if it weren’t for how they made Joy such a terrible character. I have legit NO IDEA why anyone likes her. She’s just a glorified bully. I didn’t feel any sympathy for her when she cried and said ‘I just wanted Riley to be happy!’ (Again, note how the ’emotions’ in this movie are not really extensions of Riley, they’re more like controllers, which gives me the impression it’s not RILEY who’s suppressing her sadness, it’s someone else entirely.) I just…GOD.
Holy crap this was a really angry, negative rant. I apologize. Usually when it comes to female characters, I love them to death. And I PROMISE, I’ll do more posts lifting them up instead of putting them down. But for this post, these are a few popular characters that are viewed uncritically, and I needed to weigh in on the situation before I burst. These characters are NOT feminist and I’m tired of people saying they are. People need to realize that just because a female character isn’t just passive and has some interests and does a few things, doesn’t automatically make her a feminist icon. You can like them, but don’t deny their flaws and be sure to understand why not everyone would like them.