Marvel’s ‘Jessica Jones’ is the latest, best example of white feminist fiction: excellent on sexism, terrible on racism.
In ‘Mad Max: Fury Road’ the “strong female characters” are notable specifically for their aversion to violence. The film portrays its women as emotionally strong people who engage in violence only in self-defense, and only against the system that oppresses them.
Aside from being lazy, careless depictions like this are dangerous. They desensitize people to an issue that is still very pressing. It’s not that rape shouldn’t exist in fiction, but they must be framed responsibly. Fictional female characters are forever being raped as retribution against the ills of the men they’re connected to, or as punishment for not being submissive to the men around them. And this happens time and time again across genres and media. So while the denotative reading of these acts might be that “evil men rape” the connotative interpretation over time becomes “rape is a valid punishment for women.”
Firstly, a definition of sorts: the myth of the “strong Black woman” is loosely defined as a Black woman who is emotionally hardy to the point of feeling no pain. She is never fazed or hysterical. She is cold and calculating. She has no personal needs or desires and doesn’t complain. She can take a beating and come out on the other side unharmed. This is supposed to be seen as a good thing. Black women are “so strong” that no amount of abuse will break them. They will always keep plodding on. “Strong black women” are superhuman.
The show expertly demonstrates how the show’s female characters find ways to move through a world that refuses them power or autonomy. Because of this, I’m very surprised and disappointed that the show chose to have its title character violently raped as a way to advance the plot.