Action Girl/Headscratchers

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  • I am confused with the idea that as an Action Girl, Tifa doesn't like to fight, but Aerith, a non-Action Girl, likes to fight. To me, it does not make sense. Because Aerith doesn't like fighting and in the game, she went out of her way to avoid fighting.
    • Not all that confusing, really. A great deal of martial arts training is psychological -- knowing how and when to use your fighting skill, and not abusing it. Physical confrontation is taught to be a last resort after exhausting every other option. Since Tifa is clearly a capable karateka, she would only use fighting techniques when there's no other option.
  • I think the fact that this is a trope seems like a Double Standard, like if a woman is The Hero, The Lancer, etc. or anything but the Damsel in Distress or Shallow Love Interest, it's somehow automatically noteworthy meaning it's not normal.
    • It is a double standard, but sadly I think that's a product of our culture. It's still not quite considered normal.
      • It's not really a Double Standard, it's (at least trying to be) a subversion of the "typical" role of women/girls in fiction. Most classic examples have The Hero be male, and the Damsel in Distress and its various sub-tropes were female. With the Action Girl, you have a female character who kicks ass, which is supposed to be breaking away from the more "traditional" formula. I'd say that it's a bit misused though; either it's occasionally being misapplied to a few characters, or it's turning into an omnipresent trope.
        • Should we then, perhaps, change the Damsel in Distress to be a gender-ambiguous trope? There are a sufficient number of men-in-distress to qualify at this point in time.
  • Why does this trope-and associated characters who are this trope-more appreciated than Nice Girl characters or Princess Classic types? Nothing says that a female character can't be a good character with depth because she's gentle and kind and feminine, but even then, the Fan Dumb-and even the Fandom-tends to support Action Girls all the time. Even considering What Measure Is a Non-Badass? and Real Women Never Wear Dresses, Action Girl appears to be oversaturating the medium and making feminine and sweet girls seem like bad characters by nature, but not by practice or by their their personality. Why, God? Why?
    • I think it's probably the backlash from several centuries of women being little more than prizes to be won in stories. Although, I have to admit, you have a point.
    • Which is exactly why I'm feeling more than a little like the only person who can defend and wish to point out a good female character because of their more gentle and compassionate natures than their rough and strong ones. I find that Action Girl isn't a bad trope, but one that is quickly becoming too pervasive in the medium, and that female characters who don't have those qualities are immediately shot down by fans.
      • I'm with you. The other problem(s) seems to be that for some reason, many will assume that being a Badass automatically makes one a Jerkass. There is a difference. I personally like Action Girls who are also very meek and shy, but these traits don't take away from their ability in battle. I think what the world needs is more characters who are both feminine and strong, because then the average girl can see that you don't have to be so ashamed of being girly.
      • A scene from Casino Royale shed some light on this. In the movie, Bond is partnerd with a woman, and so they converse to learn about each other. Bond points out that though she has balls and a high position, she's a Jerkass because she believes that all men are sexist jerks who see her initially as a meek tool (which, in retrospect, makes her sexist too), which ultimately comes back to bite her in the ass. I know this is from a movie, and that the character wasn't an Action Girl, but still, I believe it sheds some light on the controversy of this trope. Also, the reason it's so hard to write a good Action Girl isn't just sexism, but the dualism created in gender roles that has existed for pretty much all of human history. It's going against something hard-wired into the minds of every single human being on the planet. Not that I don't appreciate a good Action Girl, mind you.
      • You just brought up a very interesting point that I feel needs to be addressed; why is it so hard? To be honest, as a writer and a man, I don't exactly see the difficulty in writing someone who is well-defined and who kicks butt without them being a stereotypical Jerkass or cliched Straw Feminist or any of the other problems that myself (the original Headscratcher) or those above have mentioned. Take the notion of a woman who fights, add proper motivation for their reason to fight with proper motivational context, extend their feelings toward aspects that have nothing to do with combat-firmly separating the two different fields upon their mindset-and go from there. If we're feeling ballsy, give them difficulty in situations where they can't fight their way out or their means of normal combat are taken away from proper conflict and not as shock value. This doesn't remove my point-that a Girl Next Door or a Princess Classic feels beaten down because they don't fight or are meek-but it does prove that the well-written Action Girl can be done.
    • I think to some degree it comes down to competence rather than gender. In sci-fi and fantasy, at least, there is generally a conflict, and that conflict will be, in large part, physical, whether it's a space war or a horde of orcs descending on a village. Generally speaking, characters are expected to contribute to the effort, whether it's through physical combat or tactical thinking or some other practical skill. If you spend your time moping about your lot in life or waiting to be rescued, congratulations -- you have become The Load. Or worse, The Millstone. Non-action guys are equally maligned. Basically, if you don't do what's expected of you in a given situation in a given setting, you're not going to win any friends. Unfortunately, our society tends to view men as proactive and women as just kinda...there. Also unfortunate is the fact that this website seems to take an "all or nothing" view regarding stereotypical gender traits. "Feminine" traits and physical aptitude are not mutually exclusive. You can be an action girl and still have a gentle heart or a compassionate nature. It's when you contribute nothing useful to the drama that people start to have problems. Between a character who sits around wringing her hands and lamenting that she wasn't born a man and a character who actually goes out and does something to help drive the plot forward, wouldn't the more admirable of the two be obvious? It doesn't help matters that, in fiction, there isn't much middle ground between these two archetypes. As for why action girls tend to be complete jerks for no reason, I think that's more down to the fact that Badass and Jerkass have become nearly interchangeable terms, what with people generally taking a Good Is Dumb, Evil Is Cool stance when it comes to character behavior.
  • OK, Action Girls are cool and all, but why is it every female has to be one? Whenever I write a female character, someone asks me when she "starts kicking a**". Never mind other valuable skills she's used to save the day, never mind if it's blatantly against her character to go around fighting, never mind if she's eight, girls are apparently only useful if they can fight. Geez, I can't fight. (Also, I have written Action Girls before, and they're normally not as popular as the guys. XD)
    • It's sad, and a bit of a Double Standard, but some people think that the only way for a girl to be meaningful is for her to kick ass just as good as (if not better than) the boys. If your series is set in a more action-thriller or Shonen-esque setting (where ass-kickers are the norm), then I guess it would be a bit understandable. But if you have a Slice of Life story or whatever, then...what's the big deal? On the other hand, seeing the non-Action Girl character constantly being the helpless Damsel in Distress gets a bit tiresome. You could try making her a Gender Flipped Non-Action Guy, in which she's the Plucky Comic Relief with shades of the Butt Monkey (that is the character I usually relate to). But since you said "other valuable skills", I'd guess she's more than just a Damsel Scrappy.
      • Same poster, but after having a stroke of Fridge Brilliance; I actually decided that this trope need not be present in order for a female character to be a Badass. In fact, I'm planning on having an OC Stand-In character play an important part of the plot, but deliberately avoid making her an Action Girl. To elaborate, she isn't good at fighting physically, and is more of a Fragile Speedster, but she's still a Badass Bookworm with a photographic memory, and pretty good tactical skills. I wanted her to be Badass, but not in a conventional sort of a way, because it would be too cliche. So, to be honest, I'm really starting to think that Action Girl isn't always good, but a non-Action Girl character isn't necessarily helpless.
  • What is it with people and this trope? I mean, how come Action Girl automatically means Blood Knight? Or even Jerkass? All this trope means is "she's female, and she kicks ass," but it doesn't sum up her whole freakin' personality! Not every bad guy is mean, not every scaredy-cat is weak, and Moe never disqualified one from being insane. So why can't the Yamato Nadeshiko just happen to know Kung-Fu, or the Shrinking Violet react to little kids in danger? This is more than just the Unfortunate Implication that "action" is against the norm for girls, it's damn-near saying that to be nice is to be weak and feminine!
    • Well, thanks for bringing down the hammer. While I don't disagree that we can have a kind and understanding Action Girl, perception of the trope and its use in media is inaccurately placing Action Girl as a Type A Tsundere or Tomboy Princess. That is not necessary and is also harmful when nice and gentle female characters-who are generally derided by feminists as being 'weak' and 'feminine' as you say- can also be interesting and well-defined characters that could also have fans and be related to. And the real problem? Action Girl and its negative qualities-men with breasts, for example-is becoming far too prevalent. I mean, your argument could be interpreted as that there is no strength in gentleness and compassion, which any character can have. When a girl has it, they are seen as feminine. There is nothing inherently wrong about a feminine female character.