Monday, February 11, 2013

The Curse of Minority Feisty

"If you see an animated film today, it’s likely to include a token strong female character or two who reviewers will call “feisty.” In “How to Train Your Dragon,” Astrid; in “Toy Story,” Jessie; in “Ratatouille,” Colette. She’s supposed to make us feel like the movie is contemporary and feminist, unlike those sexist films of yesteryear."
I cannot tell you how much seeing "feisty" in a script turns me off.  As, Reel Girl, and Jezebel point out Girls are underrepresented on screen on TV and film, and those secondary characters are often given the same "personality".

What girls I've seen in most scripts fall into two categories overall:

"Pretty" The Love Interest, The Ingenue, the Delicate impossibly unattainable feminine ideal, painted pink and flowery. And of course it's more grown up "Sexy" which is a term of age, rather than any real difference in character attitudes usually.

Or, the Feisty Girl. 

The Feisty Girl is more modern, she would pick red over pink and feisty tends to be code for "competent female with positive qualities of modern womanhood" but, to be honest, boiling all of that down to one adjective is as unproductive as the other stereotypes of ages past.

It's lazy. The largest issue that I come across in characterization is laziness. Take the time to develop your characters, male or female. The problem appears more relevant when we talk about female characters in aggregate because female characters are more often than not, secondary.

Every time you see a "feisty" girl, she's almost an afterthought, Feisty is a grab bag and it's not as useful as it's overuse wants it to be. When you're picking adjectives, try and pick 3 that are unusual.

Let's do that for a start.

Next time you're writing a script, if you want to describe your characters as "Pretty", "Sexy", or "Feisty." Stop for a moment, and open a thesaurus. Find the other adjective that best colors the character you're writing then use that instead.

It wouldn't take that more time, and would propel character development ahead by leaps and bounds.


  1. It's amazing how often sexism (or any other ism) is ALSO bad writing. Kill two birds with one stone fixing that problem.

    1. Is autism also bad writing. I have a very mild case of that.