The ‘girlboss’ trope has grown increasingly popular in many books and films. She’s usually a headstrong, young, fighter woman that beats up a group of guys in order to save the day, and she’s meant to be a positive role-model for girls all around the world. However, these kinds of characters don’t often successfully do that. They come across as overpowered, annoying, or even too perfect to be real.
So how do you portray a strong woman? What has Hollywood been getting wrong? And, most importantly, how can we incorporate awesome girl bosses into our own work to inspire other girls?
Rapunzel, Disney’s first 3D animated princess, is one of the strongest princesses out there. And it’s not because she can beat up a whole bunch of guards with a frying pan. It’s not because she fearlessly defies her mother either. It’s because of something else entirely, and it happens to be the very thing that Hollywood keeps missing.
When Rapunzel’s mother, the queen, was pregnant and very ill, she was given a potion made from a magical flower with healing properties. That potion gave her child magical hair, which, on top of growing to be very long, heals wounds and reduces age. As a small infant, Rapunzel was kidnapped by an old woman so she can maintain her youth. The princess was raised in a tower, far away from civilization, with only her ‘mother’ and pet chameleon for company. When she is finally given the opportunity to escape on her eighteenth birthday, she seizes it with enthusiasm. Things are going wonderfully as Rapunzel explores the kingdom…until her mother tracks her down and takes her back to the tower.
Now, it took a lot of guts for Rapunzel to get out of her tower and seize her dream of going outside, but after that, things were pretty easy for her. It was easy for her to have fun and eat cupcakes with her future boyfriend. It was easy for her to dance in the streets and greet the townspeople. It was even easy for her to run from pursuing soldiers early on in the movie. During all of these things, Rapunzel might have faced physical pains and struggles, yet none of these things affected her long term. She was still fine afterwards.
However, when her mother drags her home and tells her that the love of her life betrayed her…that’s when things get truly hard for her. Because, in that situation, things looked so bleak, Rapunzel didn’t know if she would ever recover. At that moment, there was no hope in sight, only pitch-black sadness pressing in from every side.
Rapunzel pushed through. She defied her mother, faced her fear even when it was at its worst, and refused to be beaten by the surrounding sadness. She was strong even in her weakest moment.
We usually don’t think weakness to be a critical part of strength. This is probably because many movies and TV shows say that strength is perfection. Everywhere you turn people are telling you that having no weaknesses is the best way to be strong. That in order to be an heroic role-model you have to be physically strong and show no emotion whatsoever. Because, according to them, you can’t have flaws or make mistakes. You can’t be weak.
But this kind of perfect image is a lie. If anyone was truly perfect like this, if they never made a mistake, never had to deal with something close to their heart, it actually makes them look incredibly weak on the inside. Even if they can beat up a bunch of guys, they’ve never ventured outside of their comfort zone. They’ve never had to face something truly difficult.
In order to prove that they are truly strong, you need to show your viewers a character who can overcome a difficulty that is personally challenging to them. Your character should conquer their fear and push through the hard times, even when things are at their bleakest.
True strength is when you have a weakness or a challenge, yet you overcome it. Rapunzel did just that, by finding herself hopelessly lost and almost being conquered by her fear, but ultimately deciding to face her fear to earn what she truly valued. Rapunzel is one of the strongest girlbosses I’ve ever seen. And I hope she inspires you to write female leads that are just as strong.
What are your favorite girlbosses? How did the writers show their strengths through their weaknesses? What weaknesses do you have planned for your characters? And how was this article? Too sweet? Too sour? Just right?
Hello, I’m Sophia! I’m a child of God and I (if you couldn’t tell already) love to write! I’m also a total theater kid and strong dessert (specifically cupcake) enthusiast. For as long as I can remember, I’ve enjoyed both reading and making my own stories. I’m so glad I get to share with you what I’ve learned from some of my favorite (or sometimes least favorite) stories on this blog.