A Tear for the Strong One

Every so often I run across a book review that beats to the drum of, “She’s running around thinking about boys and crying. I thought she was strong. She’s so fracking weak!!” Let’s get this one thing straight. Falling in love doesn’t make your character weak. It takes strength to fall in love. Second, strength doesn’t mean your character never cries. Strength means that when life beats them down, their ass gets back up again. Crying doesn’t make you weak. Weakness is being afraid. Weakness is falling apart and staying that way. Strong people admit when they feel pain. Strong people cry. Weak people don’t cry because they don’t have the strength to heal. Weak people don’t fall in love because they’re scared. And you know what else, it takes strength to admit you’re scared and embrace your fears and face them.

I don’t know why there’s thing out there that makes people feel like strength is kicking butt and nothing else. A woman doesn’t have to kick butt to be strong. Let’s look at TV’s Xena, Warrior Princess.

Xena

Xena kicked butt, yeah, but she also got her butt kicked from time to time, and sometimes it got kicked HARD. What made her so strong was her will to survive. That even when she was near death, she still fought to get back on her feet. In fact, that’s part of her origin story. Her crew turned on her and forced her to walk down a line while every single one of those bulky-armed men beat the living breath out of her. And you know what, at the end of that line, she stood back up again, with some difficulty, but she stood. Thus we have “Xena…Warrior Princess, a mighty princess (but not really a princess) forged in the heat of battle.” Let’s look at some other things she did.

–She cried. Several times a season.
–She made mistakes. Several a season.
–She fell in love. A few times.
–She loved people. Friends, family, even a few people who hated her.
–She tried to kill her best friend. With reason, I might add, but still.
–She sacrificed herself for strangers. And people who didn’t even like her.
–She seduced one archangel and attacked another. Again, with reason, but still.

She had faults, and she was a hero. And this is why people love her so much. Notice I didn’t include fierce ass-kicking on that list. Yeah, she was physically strong, too, and that was super exciting. But so was Ares. And when he was human for awhile, he got whipped. And fell apart emotionally. And hid out on a farm like a coward. He had the giant arms, but he was not strong like Xena. If he was strong, he would have fought back. He could have taken anyone who came after him. He didn’t because as a man, he was afraid of getting hurt. As a man, he was pathetic. And weak. And sad.

This said, I did give Katniss quite a bit of grief for all the blubbering she did in Mockingjay because there are limits to how much crying and whining and morphling addiction I can stand before I want to slap a character in the face. But that is a different rant.

So, yeah, whenever I run across someone going off on a character and saying they’re not strong because they fell in love and had the audacity to let a tear or hundred escape from their eyes, I immediately stop listening/reading. That person doesn’t know what strength is, and they are not someone I want to take book advice from.

–end rant–

10 Responses to A Tear for the Strong One

  1. Thank you for writing this. Yes to it all!

    Falling in love doesn’t make you weak, having emotions and showing them doesn’t make you weak. It makes you strong for willing to show it and give it a go!

  2. “Strong” can mean a lot of things to a lot of people but I agree that “strong” female characters–and it’s always the female characters, isn’t it?–don’t have to be ass kicking all the time. I, for one, think a really intelligent character is a particularly strong one because I can’t stand too stupid to live. And often, I find ass-kicking equals impulsive stupidity.

    • I agree. A lot of time bravery isn’t really brave it’s stupid. And I don’t think all characters necessarily have to be strong. Or at least what people view as strong. But yeah, people never call the strength of male characters into question. I do, but I guess I would be in the minority on that.

  3. Strength comes in different forms. At the moment, it seems most female characters have to be these amazing battle machines (physical, magical or otherwise), which is okay but tends to rule the scene. The amazing females with undying inner strength (traditional, I guess) hit the short end today. Although I love a great battle, the other end would be nice to see a little more often too. Great post.

    • I like big fight scenes, too. ^_^ I read a book recently where the whole point of it was to break the main character’s walls down so she could accept her pain and cry. It was great. 🙂

  4. I agree. There are several ways to show strength, and I actually see crying as a form of strength–the emotional strength that allows a person to keep a healthy perspective and mourn when mourning is appropriate.

    • I do too! I think crying is really healthy. Obviously not all the time, but yeah, healing, cathartic, a good way to move through pain, all that good stuff. ^_^

  5. Hiya Krystal! Love this topic. I completely agree! Strength comes from imperfections and the ability to emotionally connect eith others. Sure, there are limits to how far a writer should go before a story becomes melodramatic, but without emotion, love and flaws, all that’s left is a Polly Perfect–and those characters are boring and un relatable. Nice job with this one and I love the Xena references! PS sorry for any typos. I’m in the car typing on my ipad and the sun is in my eyes lol…

    • Sun! ^_^ Thank you. That’s it exactly! Nobody is perfect, so it’s impossible to relate to someone who is (in their own minds anyway.) Someone who kicks butt all the time and never gets hurt is just unrealistic. (Xena rocks forever! ^_^)

Hi! ^_^