Female Protagonists Are On The Rise, Diversity Isn’t

by Hallie Marks

As the YA genre has risen in popularity in recent years, the number of female protagonists has also grown in both books and film. Besides the obvious awesomeness of this, it’s especially great for there to be strong female characters in books for younger teens. I remember having a hard time finding many books with girls as the main characters beyond anything written by Tamora Pierce when I was in middle school. (Not complaining, though. All her characters were kick-ass).  As is with politics, CEOs, and other high-ranking positions, the more female role models the better. After all, it’s very hard to strive to be something you never see, so it’s great that girls (and guys!) can read about or see interesting, complex female characters in pop culture today.

However, the lack of diversity in these female characters is troubling to many. This chart, put together by NextMovie, shows major female characters in movies and compares them in a variety of categories, such as race, hair color, location, time period, personal attributes, and romantic interests. The results they came up with is disappointing: All eight characters are white, all but one have “poor self-esteem,” the majority are involved in a love triangle, and all are considered “shy/quiet”. Out of these eight characters, there are no WOC which is obviously depressing, and the “shy/quiet” and “virgin” paired with “fighter” personalities display a lack of depth in characters. Many times female YA characters are these shy girls with low self-esteem (who are very conventionally beautiful) who break out and become heroes, which can be annoying after reading 10 versions of the same story.

On the other hand, I wouldn’t agree with a lot of the classifications of the characters in this chart. I would definitely not consider Katniss to be shy, the Harry/Hermione/Ron love triangle they claim exists really didn’t exist, and Bella is a fighter? Though I don’t think Bella Swan is the worst female protagonist out there, I wouldn’t say she’s a strong example of feminism, nor would I really consider her to be a fighter along the lines of the other girls used as examples. Also, why does their virginity status matter in comparing them?

As much as I love infographics, I’m not super crazy about this one, although I do like that they are focusing on female protagonists. Who are your favorite strong female characters in TV, movies, video games and books today? What were some of your favorites when growing up? 

Image from: nextmovie.com

You may also like

Get the print magazine.

The best of BUST in your inbox!

Subscribe to Our Weekly Newsletter

About Us

Founded in 1993, BUST is the inclusive feminist lifestyle trailblazer offering a unique mix of humor, female-focused entertainment, uncensored personal stories, and candid reporting that tells the truth about women’s lives.

©2023 Street Media LLC.  All Right Reserved.