This has been an issue of some debate, particularly as it pertains to female characters. But I don’t want to just talk about them.
This is my criteria for a strong character:
- Not just a stereotype
- Depth and range of emotional struggle
- this does not mean that a man should cry or that woman can’t
- the character’s emotional response to a situation should at least be applicable to the situation and not written in to show unnatural coldness or things of that nature.
- The character doesn’t make you feel like they exist because of “representation” or is a plot device
We remember to point out that Elizabeth Bennett is strong character but not the men of Firefly. I love to use them as an example because the viewer gets to see each one struggle with “the man box” in his own way, except Sheppard. Sheppard seems to have long since acclimated to not being in the man box at all. There are also those few characters that make us see non-binary gendered people as people and not props or plot devices. Recognizing all kinds of strong characters will help in the overall endeavor to have better representation and role models for everyone. Men may have a wider representation of “strong” characters and of potential role models, but I don’t find most to be any more realistic than Santa Claus.