She’s introduced with a surprise reveal shot, in that our intrepid TV protagonists have just come upon a bounty hunter, sheriff, military officer, etc. and surprise! Jaws drop – she’s a woman. She scowls or smiles ironically at our heroes. What’s that on her shoulder? Why, it’s a huge chip! Now she’s rolling her eyes and making a wisecrack about how they need to pick their jaws up off the ground and get over her being a woman. Soon, she’ll be lecturing us on how worthless and useless men are.
But she does also prove to be kick-ass at shooting or some other manly endeavor, and the entire rest of the episode will be a series of ironic gender essentialist asides and behaviors that defy gender stereotypes, so it’s a good thing, isn’t it? Our writers sure think so. They’ll be patting themselves on the back all the way home.
Except there’s one small problem: whether our guest star’s complaints about “men” have any legitimacy or not, she will turn out to be a Man-Hater who was Wrong To Hate Men, at least insofar as concerns our heroes (who are of course male because the industry requires it). In some instances of this trope, all her complaints turn out to be Just Plain Silly as she becomes enlightened to the fact that These Menz Are Different (or at least that’s what we’re told in dialog – often, evidence is in short supply). In other instances, her complaints are legitimate (i.e., we’ll find out she was indeed mistreated by her daddy or lover or some other man or men) but she will still come to understand it wasn’t very nice to blame all men for that. Shame on her.
She’s a strawperson – the woman who unreasonably hates all men – and it’s much easier to set her up and tear her down than it is to address the likelihood that if our heroes were faced with some chick doin’ a man’s job, they’d probably react in a perfectly sexist manner.
Both versions of this trope induce vomit. The first fails to explore any legitimacy behind her claims of sexism and misogyny, leading us to the conclusion she just hated men for the fun of it. This is ridiculous: humans of bother genders are trained from birth to glorify the least little good-doing from men and make excuses whenever men do evil. Even women and girls who’ve been thoroughly abused by men frequently buy into their own oppression and blame themselves rather than the men responsible. Where would anyone get the idea to hate men, if not from observing men behaving badly and having the nerve to defy her entire society and blame them for their own bullshit?
The second version, in which her complaints are legitimate but not her hatred of men, suggests there are only isolated incidents of men harming women and no institutionalized sexism for sensible women to be complaining about. It also furthers the pop psychology cultural meme that all women who are harmed by men immediately lose all reason and hate all men. Actual incidents of misandry are far less common than incidents of women not being doormats and men confusing this with boiling hatred.
These stories are almost never about how our heroes need to get over themselves and their sexism.