Lest any moviegoer think that the introduction of a strong female character (How to Train Your Dragon 2, The Lego Movie, The Hobbit) was a suitable replacement for the damsel in distress, The Dissolve shreds that fantasy. Pointing out how often the strong female character – “a woman with her own agency, agenda and [theoretically, anyway] story purpose” – is given nothing to do, Tasha Robison provides a helpful series of questions for Hollywood decision makers looking to provide truly strong female characters: does she do anything significant to the outcome of the plot? If so, it something other than servicing the male’s needs? Could she be replaced with an inanimate object? Is she the best at everything, until the male hero arrives, who’s better? Or does she exist only so he can surpass her? Is she cool, so he can look cooler? Has she never needed to be rescued, until the hero needs to rescue her? Does she disappear after the first half? Powerful questions worth thinking about when creating characters. Considering, especially, that most of the films considered are geared toward children, it’s worth thinking twice about the messages kids are receiving about gender roles.
Lesson for Hollywood: It takes more than calling a female character “strong.” You have to give her something to do.