Trope of the Week: Emotionless Badass Female

This lady is too much of a badass to have those silly things you call emotions. She has two settings: bored or angry. There’s nothing in between, because she is a tough lady. Seriously. She could probably eat a bowl of nails for breakfast – without any milk – and not even care. That’s how cool and hardened she is.

Why this can be bad: For the love of all that is good, please stop. I’ve talked about my issues with strong female characters before, but of everything that goes into that idea, this is probably my most hated. The idea that emotions – especially female ones – are burdens is harmful to your audience. Repressed emotions lead to higher blood pressure and lower immune systems, and if we portray this badass female as having no emotions in a positive light, we encourage all those consuming the story – especially females – to take on her qualities. It’s how media consumption works, and we should not be teaching anyone that having emotions means that you are weak or somehow less capable.

How you can fix it: You can definitely have a character with the appearance of apathy, but at some point you need to show that she does have a softer side. This does not mean she needs to fall in love. I’ll repeat that: this does not mean she needs to fall in love. Many writers try to show that love can soften any woman, but I beg of you not to do that. Lady Hala in Death Defiant is my (biased) favorite example, because she has been raised to know that she needs to show off a hardened exterior. She rules an entire civilization, and she cannot allow them or her enemies to see anything that might reflect weakness. As a result, she is callous and unforgiving, but she still cares a whole lot. When something devastating happens to her home, she cries not because she has been duped but because she’s empathetic for all those who died. With only people she deeply trusts around her, she’s able to cry and be sad and be angry all at once and not have to feel like she needs to wear a facade. She’s also still capable of making jokes with those she considers her family and – shockingly – smiling. She’s still tough, and she’s definitely emotionally stunted, but she is still three-dimensional and capable of every human emotion.

Of course, you can still have apathetic female badasses, but if you’re trying to portray them in a heroic light, you need to also show that there are downsides to apathy and that she’s not exactly the picture of mental health.

Bottom Line: Women don’t need to be emotionless to be badass, and if they have emotions, they don’t have to be negative. Let your badass woman be, well, a human being – or vampire or alien or half-demon overlord. Whatever. Just don’t let her perpetuate the idea that you can only be badass and female if you’re dead inside.

One comment on “Trope of the Week: Emotionless Badass Female

  1. jbgarner58 says:

    Reblogged this on J. B. Garner – Musings of a Starving Author and commented:
    Reblogging this saves me a future Looking at Character article! Nothing more I need to add to Paige’s analysis.

Give me your thoughts.

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s