The term “strong female characters” is one of the most used and least understood phrases in TV and movies right now. What does it mean? Does “strong” mean physically strong? Emotionally strong? Does it just mean ‘strongly written,’ with a realness and complexity to the character? Sure it MAY mean those first two, but I’ve always seen it as the third. And apparently Maisie Williams agrees. She told Radio Times, “they’re real women, and not just an idea of how a woman is or an accessory.” She also says that she didn’t realize until recently how rare that type of role is for women.
I didn’t realise when I was younger that women were written so badly, but going further into this career I realised there are a lot of really bad characters, that it’s not common to come across females who aren’t just ‘the girlfriend.
When you get a script they always include a sentence or two about the character, something like: ‘Jason: 36, strong, built, quick, witty’ and a description of his personality,” Williams told the Radio Times. “Then there’s a description of the girlfriend — ‘Sarah: hot, blonde.’ And that’s it! Hot-looking but in a cute way. That’s your character!
You can’t pick and choose everything, but I hope to never have to play a character that is only there to benefit a male lead.
Not only are these types of roles not challenging (and possibly demeaning) for the actresses playing them, but they also send off a terrible message for what girls and women are capable of. And Williams, to her credit, seems to recognize that she is an important messenger in her industry.
I’m still trying to be a good role model, because whether I like it or not I do influence a lot of people. Young people in this industry… we’re doing all right! It’s good to make mistakes; that’s what this time is for.