I ran across a really excellent article about Strong Female Characters and wanted to comment on the broader applicability of the effect of identity politics on fiction.
I try to avoid getting into discussions about sex and gender because I prefer not to talk about things I don’t understand. I am a person who is male and I like some people, and some of the people I like are male, some of them are female. Sometimes (not often) I have sex with people, and some of those people are female and some of those people are male. I don’t claim to speak for all men, and I don’t believe that any woman can speak for all women. There, now you know everything I know on the subject.
However, I do think I know a thing or two about fiction, and one of the things that I think I know is that every character in a work of fiction needs to have a narrative reason to be there. That is, every character needs something to do, and characters are defined by what they do, not what they are.
The example that the author of the piece uses is the character of Trinity in The Matrix movies. And while Carrie-Anne Moss does look absolutely scrumptious in tight black leather, Trinity doesn’t do much to move the plot along aside from look good. The main characters are Neo, Morpheus, Agent Smith, and Cypher. One could remove Trinity and all references to her from the script rather neatly without drastically changing the plot. Or, really, changing the plot at all.
However, any or all of the four Matrix principals (Hero, Mentor, Antagonist, Betrayer) could have been of either gender. Trinity could have been a main character in any of those roles, which would have changed the feel of the films, but not the basic message.
I really can’t add much to the article referenced above, actually. Go read it, it says pretty much what I’d like to say on the subject.