Strong Women in Sci-fi and Fantasy

Speaking from a male perspective, I feel I am in a position to examine a phenomenon that is the by-product of the science fiction and fantasy genre. Namely, what is it about the beautiful and often violent women of these genres that draw men in and attract their undying attention?

The first thing that comes to mind is that perhaps it is some sort of mother-complex – the desire of young, impressionable males (and those in their 30s as well) to have a strong female figure in their lives. Psychologists would probably know more on the subject. But the fact remains that strong female characters with a propensity towards conflict dominate the sci-fi and fantasy genre.

When a character shows up in a book, movie or television series that is both female and passive, I tend to look the other way. Those who I have talked to express the same general view. For those of us who have read the Game of Thrones series or seen the television adaptation, I would reference the character of Sansa Stark. She presents a weak female role that is consistently getting pushed around and manipulated by those around her who are stronger. Readers (and viewers) feel pity for her, but rarely is there any sort of attraction.

In contrast, look to an iconic female such as Princess Leia, in Star Wars. She’s a princess, she was probably spoiled as a child, but she can wield a blaster and takes crap from no one. She fought against the odds to take down the evil of the Empire and consequently became one of the most desirable women in the genre. The same goes for Kara Thrace of Battlestar Galactica fame. Here is a girl who chews men up and spits them out on a regular basis – hardly what one would consider healthy relationship material. Yet still men (and women) adore her and put her on a pedestal as a model of everything that a woman should be.

One might say that it’s the actresses that create the attraction, but this doesn’t translate beyond the visual medium. Personally, I am inclined to believe that it’s the very nature of the genre which creates the desirability in these strong females. A science fiction or fantasy world is one of conflict and strife and good versus evil – only those who have the strength to fight will survive and prosper. As readers, we want the good guys to win, against all the odds. Thus, when a woman who is both beautiful and strong steps up to fight the good fight (especially when they are scantily clad) we root for them, admire them and begin to idealize aspects of their personality. Of course, the attraction doesn’t begin and end with heroines, and oftentimes the bad girls are just as hypnotic as the good ones.

So, do we sci-fi and fantasy fans just crave a strong woman to take charge of us, or is there something deeper there that explains the magnetic attraction? Could it be seen as some sort of geek equivalent of mainstream notions of beauty and sexuality? Whatever the reasons, I personally will never stop thinking of these strong women as the ideal to look up to, even if finding a blaster-wielding princess in real life is highly unlikely.

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Category: Movies and TV

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  1. Dane says:

    I love this post great stuff i too find the strong women of sci-fi irresistible and i understand every bit of what you are saying on the subject :) Watched underworld awakening the other day and Kate Beckinsale was smoking hot :)

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