I watched Xena: Warrior Princess regularly. I like the intricacies of Buffy the Vampire Slayer. I thought Princess Leia was feisty & deserved more screen time. For a while I wanted to be an FBI agent a la Dana Scully.
It’s not ‘just’ pop culture.
I know that science fiction & fantasy fiction isn’t everyone’s cup of tea. As a teenager, I cut my teeth on a lot of speculative fiction. I’m able to recognize now that I have always gravitated towards strong women characters. & I found it much easier to find these faces within the genres of science fiction & fantasy than ‘mainstream’ pop culture.
First of all, let’s acknowledge that the lines between science fiction & fantasy aren’t particularly well-defined. I tend to embrace the term ‘speculative fiction’ for this reason.
Speculative fiction is ripe for the complex characters that I love reading or watching. I like when women are portrayed as multi-dimensional, flawed beings. I like when they are unapologetic about being strong and female. & more often than not, they are fighting against the odds. Speculative fiction lends itself to exploring gender role complexities within the safety of a different world or environment. We can explore non-utopian worlds where we’ve overcome oppressions we experience day-to-day or experience futures and alternate realities that have gotten even scarier.
The kind of strong female characters I sought out should be more available in the mainstream. Why? It’s just media, you might point out…
It is important that we see these scenarios laid out in front of us. This is what the Social Cognitive Theory of Mass Communication is based upon. People learn by watching what others do & won’t do, whether it is interpersonal or media-based. We need to see the outcome – we need to see the benefits laid out for us. We need to see the possibility.
Speculative fiction shows the path between theory and practice.
This means when you show viewers the existence of a woman president, it means something. When you show a woman standing up to oppression in a male-dominated universe, it means something. Even if the galaxy is far, far away.