One movie trope that we’re always hearing about is the strong female character. She is shrewd in business or she is lethal in combat. She is able to compete in a man’s world and she can hang with the guys. She can drink like a fish and curse like a sailor. She is everything that we often associate with masculinity but she’s a woman and she’s really hot. This SFC trope has been used in films and TV for years, and it popped up multiple times recently, particularly in Mad Max: Fury Road and Star Wars: The Force Awakens. I’m taking nothing a way from those performances, but I am bothered by the idea that a strong woman is one who acts like one of the guys. As if male approval and assimilation is the height of feminine achievement. Let’s redefine that strong female character for the next generation. Here are my picks of the strong female characters from 2015 films. They are smart, inquisitive, vulnerable, emotional, accomplished, passionate, and mysterious.
Therese Belivet in Carol
Played by Rooney Mara, she is young and impressionable and not yet sure what she wants. Her ability to dig into her vulnerability allows her to take a chance that leads to adventure, heart break, and a greater sense of self possession.
Kate Mercer in 45 Years
Charlotte Rampling plays Kate so simply and perfectly. She is a woman who slowly realizes that everything in her 45 Year marriage may be built on lies. She doesn’t beat anyone up or stop an army. She does explore her own mind, her own weakness, and her marriage until secrets are revealed that cannot be unseen. Her strength is that she is human and flawed.
Bianca in Creed
Tessa Thompson takes a part that could simply be a love interest role and turns it into an indelible character. Bianca is smart, determined and fighting a battle of her own against hearing loss. Her music and her passion drive her. She brings Adonis into her life to supplement and enhance it, not because she needs him to make herself feel complete.
Lucille Sharpe in Crimson Peak
Jessica Chastain fills this role with a delicate balance of passion and restraint. As the sister-in-law who may or may not be a threat to a young bride, Lucille brims with danger and desire. She is such a magnetic character, that I forgot about the other characters when she was onscreen.