Five Female Character Types We are Tired of Seeing

Many fictional characters have cookie-cutter personalities. They are the same across every genre of film and literature. Though male characters are just as easily stereotyped, we will focus on females in this article. Here are five female characters we see all the time:

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1. Token Girl

“Congratulations, you get to be The Girl of this story!” This character is usually the only girl in the cast, or at least the only girl who is on the same team as the guys. Most of the time, she’s a girl just for the sake of diversity. She does nothing different from her guy counterparts. If her character were changed to a male, the character would make all the same decisions and say the same lines.

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She is often the main character’s secondary friend. In an attempt to make her more interesting, writers may combine her with one or more of the stereotypes listed below. It doesn’t help. As an individual character, she is still hopelessly boring.

 2. Damsel-in-Distress

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This girl is the darling of romance-disguised-as-action stories. Though she is constantly getting into trouble, she is incapable of helping herself. She is extremely needy, but what she really needs is to be erased from the story completely.

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She usually serves as a motivator for the hero. He will do anything for her, so the plot will move forward in the name of “love and devotion.” However, if the damsel were swapped with a motivating circumstance (such as the death of a loved one), the hero would still act in a similar way. The story would be basically the same. This damsel is useless to the core.

3. Eye Candy

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Most often used in visual art, this character’s physical appearance is the main reason for her existence. Every scene she appears in just-so-happens to show off her curves appealingly. She adds almost nothing to the story; the plot would get along fine without her.

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This character is easily the most offensive on this list. While other stereotypes reduce a female character to a single trait, this character is reduced to her body. She fails to reflect real women and assumes that she is the main reason real men view art. We all know that she is just another marketing ploy.

4. Hardcore Warrior

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This woman is a fighter, but that’s about all. She rarely displays emotion or empathy. She is always the best at combat and survival. The other characters follow her leadership without question, even though her only skills usually involve a weapon.

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Not-very-subtle feminist undertones go with this character. She is never dependent on anyone, especially not men. It is hard to imagine her in everyday life because she lives and breathes battle. She lacks a dimension that would make her more human, less a cold-hearted robot. At the end of the day, she is only a secret weapon for the good guys to use.

5. Mean Girl

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If a character’s personality is rude and petty, it will be female more often than not. She can be cruel for no good reason. Prissy, selfish, and sassy, this character embodies an uppity attitude.

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She is almost always the antagonist. Her motivation for putting others down is either unclear or foolish. She makes an unhelpful friend and an unchallenging enemy. She is shallow all the way through. We can’t help but snore as she fails to measure up to just about every other character.

Conclusion

These character types all have something in common: they are ridiculously unrealistic. Because of this, the characters cannot change and grow like real people. We never get to really know them because are all just copies of each other.
If a character is summed up in a stereotype, she is lame and we are tired of seeing her reincarnated. We would rather see characters more closely reflect real, multi-faceted personalities.
Real women are vibrantly and intricately diverse. They can display pieces of different types, but they don’t live in those ruts. If more fictional characters were modeled after real women, their stories would keep us on the edge of our seats.

Cadi Murphy

Cadi is an editor who masquerades as a writer. When she's not helping author's make their stories the best they can be, she works on her own projects, including a YA Fantasy/Steampunk trilogy.

7 Comments

  1. John Canary on September 24, 2016 at 12:44 pm

    Uhura is not eye candy.
    I also believe that there should be more female characters of the warrior type. One who can lead a group of others

  2. Zero Tolerance on September 24, 2016 at 12:43 am

    Hmm. I would like to see what your interpretation of good female characters look like before I pass judgement on what you dislike.

    Ironically, you also evoke Anita Sarkeesian’s “Tropes vs Women” series.

  3. YuDe Davis-Hester on September 23, 2016 at 9:43 pm

    Yeah, except for Hardened Warrior. We need more hardened warriors, both male and female, but we also need to acknowledge their soft spot. If they have no soft spot, then we’re possibly looking at a villain, or someone the heroes have a moral conflict with.

  4. Jessi L Roberts on September 23, 2016 at 5:10 pm

    I think the best litmus test for the “token girl” would be to imagine her as a guy and see if she’s still necessary to the plot. If making her a guy makes “her” useless to the plot, then there’s a problem. (Same can go for token minorities/species.) Example: Make Princess Leia “Prince Lee” and the character would still be useful and interesting to watch. Black Widow feels much more like a token female.
    Katniss seemed to be well rounded to me, but a bit much of an emotional wreck for me to relate to. 2 and 3 are the most annoying. Hint, if you can replace the girl with an object the hero wants, there’s a problem.
    I also think that the better the writer is, the better they can get away with using these types. In Mistborn, Vin ends up being the hardcore warrior who can level armies, but she isn’t the leader. She answers to her romantic interest, who is the politician/leader or tries to be.

    • Francis Lee on October 18, 2016 at 11:42 pm

      I don’t agree with this test of swapping the gender of a character to see if they would be “useful” – to say that a character must be female to fit the role carries with it assumptions and stereotypes which are not universal to all women.

      Rather than looking at this in broad strokes, one should look at the small interactions that characters exhibit to see if they are fully developed, and the overall work to see if they contribute to the whole story. Just my 2 cents.

  5. Sharon Gilman on September 23, 2016 at 4:45 pm

    I dunno, I love Black Widow. She’s sassy, she’s got some extremely epic moves, and her hair is on point. And sometimes it’s fun to be the only girl in a group of guys. For one, you get your own room. For two, it lends you a distinction. For three, it’s just nice in general to be the odd one out because people accept the strange things you do more easily.

  6. Cooper D Barham on September 23, 2016 at 11:57 am

    The only thing I disagree with is the examples for the Hardcore Warrior. Katniss and Mae both have several dimensions to their characters. Mae in particular. Katniss has other dimensions, but they’re all various shades of super depressing.

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