Female Vampires and Strong Female Characters

Kate Icely has a nice article at Paper Droids about Dracula’s impact on the character and role of female vampires: Cleaning Up Carmilla: Female Vampires After Dracula. She discusses a deleted scene from Dracula in which Harker meets a beautiful vampire woman in the tomb of Countess Dolingen of Gratz, Styria; by removing the scene, Stoker eliminated the one female vampire whose existence was not controlled by a man. The article finishes with the remark:

Of course, in the twenty-first century women are regulated further into the margins, this time as the vampire’s adoring victim.

Another recent article at Paper Droids that I like is Karri Justina Shea’s Writing Girl Power: What Makes A Strong Female Character:

Here’s the thing: girls are represented, and that’s great. But at some point over the last few decades, “strong female character” became synonymous with “badass femme fatale,” and that’s a problem. … the recipe for a strong female character is easy: make her a strong character. Take the gender out of the equation.

I’ve seen a number of similarly themed posts lately, most memorably Shana Mlawski’s Why Strong Female Characters Are Bad For Women:

Once your female characters have some depth to them, it doesn’t really matter if the male hero saves them or not.

(I feel I should point out that the romance genre is littered with ruthless billionaires who happen to have a soft spot for one particular woman, with whom they fall in love, soul mates for all eternity…)

Anyway, back on topic: s.e. smith’s Interdependence And Strong Female Characters concludes:

As long as we insist that female characters can only be strong through total independence, we do both them and women in the real world a disservice. The real mark of strength isn’t in how much of a loner you can be, how much you can isolate yourself, but how you can strike a balance, maintaining your strength and integrity while being unafraid to build emotional connections with other people.

I do agree, but also I like my female protagonists to be independent. It’s fine for them to have support from friends and family, and for them to fall in love, etc., etc., but when events come to a head then I don’t want some knight in shining armour riding to the rescue…

About Frank

A Sci-Fi & Fantasy author and lyrical poet with a mild obsession for vampires, succubi, goddesses and Supergirl.
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5 Responses to Female Vampires and Strong Female Characters

  1. In your last paragraph, I think you mean to say “interdependent” 😉

    I think there’s a lot of pressure for writers these days to create strong female characters – as in the kick ass femme fatales. Granted, that may be because of famous weak characters like Bella in Twilight, but I think having only one way for a female character to be strong is very narrow. Being positive, believing in yourself, being a leader for others, overcoming adversity and developing inner strength – those are good qualities for a strong female character.

    • Frank says:

      What I mean is that interdependence is fine for day-to-day life, but heroism should be independent – unless you have multiple protagonists working together interdependently, and then it’s very important that all characters and their relationships are well-drawn.

  2. Frank says:

    One of the commenters (Gab) on Shana Mlawski’s article says this:
    … some semblance of dependency on or need for a man is always present – which dilutes any of the strength or “strength” the character had possessed earlier in the movie. For men in movies, the “love interest” is often an aside, something that seems to be a bonus – like you said, a reward. But when a woman is the main character, her love interest usually has much, much more of an influence over her actions and motivations. And in terms of action movies, she never saves him on her own…
    This really resonates with me.

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