I’ve been working on putting my criteria for good women characters into a simple outline, and it occurs to me this might make an interesting discussion. What do you look for in a good character? What questions do you ask yourself to make sure you’re not just having a kneejerk reaction? Some of what I look for in a character would be:
(1) The character is consistent, and when she does behave in an unexpected way, the writers at least make some attempt to explain it in the script.
(2) If the character fits any stereotypes, this too is explained by the writers.
(3) Behavior that would create serious problems for a real-life woman is not treated as perfectly ordinary.
There are also some questions I ask myself once I think I’ve decided the character is good or bad, to make sure I’ve got perspective:
(1) Would I feel the same way if a male character did the same thing? This is tricky, though – it doesn’t apply in situations where female stereotypes are being touched. For example, a white male character sulking like a teenage girl does not send the same message as when a female character does it.
(2) Are the male characters written any better than she is? This, also, doesn’t always matter. For every white male character who falls into stereotypes from hell, there are quite a few who don’t. For every female character who’s stereotyped, there are… well, very few others to choose from.
What do you look for when you’re evaluating a character, or in particular, a female one?