Emilia Clarke has a part in the upcoming Solo: A Star Wars Story, but she doesn’t want her character to be called a “strong female character.”
The actress, who plays Qi’ra in the movie, finds something inherently sexist in that phrase, noting that you rarely hear people talk about “strong male characters” in the same way.
“If it’s not strong, what is it? Are you telling me there’s another option, that there’s a weak option?” she wondered. “You think a lead in a movie is going to be a weak woman? It just doesn’t even bear having the conversation, so enough already with the strong women, please.”
She added, “Take the ‘strong’ out of it, find another adjective, damn it. I’m just playing women.”
The term has been criticized by others before. One common complaint is the question of how it defines “strength.” Often, creators have tried to make their characters “strong” simply by having them shoot things or improbably beat up much larger men; aside from being a narrow definition, some have argued that this is merely another form of fanservice meant to make female characters (often traditionally-attractive love interests) seem even more desirable to male viewers, with empowerment to women as a secondary goal.
Of course, many use the term to mean that a female character is well-defined in terms of personality, but such a character can still be “weak” in other ways. For example, is Clarke’s Qi’ra bad because she’s a femme fatale, rather than a role model? Is Joyce Byers from Stranger Things (played by Winona Ryder) “weak” because she’s often on the verge of a mental breakdown, even as she fights for her family?
Whatever your thoughts, Clarke’s position is an interesting one that deserves discussion.