A friend pointed an article my way called “We’re losing all our Strong Female Characters to Trinity Syndrome,” citing a concern that, while storytellers in film have come a long way in empowering female characters, those characters are often reduced to mere plot devices.
There is an essential truth to this: they ARE plot devices.
And the reason for this is just as true: secondary characters support the Protagonist’s story.
Before we crawl under the hood, understand that I am not advocating the treatment of Strong Female Characters in many works – the author of the article makes a fair point of this – but we’re not talking about Ripley from Aliens or “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” because those are their stories. We are also not talking about “Women In Refrigerators,” a trope concerning violence against women in comics as a plot device to “hurt” Strong Male Characters.
The article outlines eight questions writers should ask themselves about Strong Female Characters, everything from “(can she be) seamlessly replaced with a floor lamp with some useful information written on it” all the way to “deciding to have sex with/not have sex with/agreeing to date/deciding to break up with a male hero” pointlessness. The article contends that writers should rise to the occasion to create someone worthy of the name Strong Female Character, but these could all be reduced to a single, far simpler question: Can your Strong Female Character be seamlessly replaced by a Strong Male Character? If yes, all’s good; if not, why not?