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"Just because my reproductive organs are on the inside instead of the outside, doesn't mean I can't handle whatever you can handle."
                - Captain Samantha Carter, Stargate SG-1

The above quote comes from Stargate SG-1's pilot episode, "Children of the Gods."  Stargate is one of my favorite television shows, and Sam Carter is an excellent example of a strong female character.  This line, however?  It's a little extreme.  Okay, it's extremely extreme... it's just difficult for me to bash my favorite character (trust me, the character improved immensely after the actress had a discussion with the writers).  The mistake most writers make when attempting to make a feminist character, or a feminist speech, is that they try too hard to make the woman sound like she's out to destroy all men.  Or they try to force it down the audience's throats that this woman means serious business, such as in the above quote.  I mean, seriously?  What woman would even consider saying something like that?

The success in Goodnight Desdemona (Good Morning Juliet) lies in the way MacDonald establishes the character of Constance Ledbelly.  At the beginning of the play, she is completely subservient to the man she unrequitedly loves and one of her students is able to manipulate her while turning in a late assignment, yet she does nothing to improve her situation.  My first thought was "wow, this character is pretty useless at this point.  What does she do?" I'm drawn to strong female characters (Lois Lane, Anne Shirley) and any piece that doesn't have one causes me to lose interest.  Eventually, however, MacDonald makes up for it.

Once, when speaking with Desdemona, Constance says, "Not that I'm some kind of feminist.  I shave my legs and get nervous in crowds" (37).  These lines are important because they depict Constance's current state of development in discovering herself, and I think MacDonald wrote these lines as a way to say you don't have to be the stereotyped "feminazi" to be the strong woman Constance becomes in the end.  Being a strong woman is being neither the violent woman that is Desdemona, nor the boy-crazy girl that is Juliet.  It's about finding a balance between the two and being confident and certain about who you are.

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NOTE: Sorry about the title.  I'll come back and retitle it once my brain is in proper working order.

Josie Rush also covers this topic in a better-titled blog, here.

4 Comments

Josie Rush said:

Karyssa, first of all, nice Anne reference.
I talked about the same type of thing in my blog. If you don't mind, I'm going to link to this entry, because we cover the same topic. You're right, the problem with the declaration of feminism is that there's an anti-men assumption that is not at all innate to the term. People assume violence, aggression, shaved heads, and burnt bras, yet that's not what it's about. MacDonald made a wise choice by letting Constance develop. She wasn't too extreme by the end of the play, so this growth still seemed realistic. Even at the begining when Constance seemed useless and "mousy" the reader still saw that spark of intellect and ambition, so we all knew she had it in her from the begining.

Kayla Lesko said:

I died at the SG1 reference.

That's the main reason why I didn't like Constance, she seemed like a ditz to me.

Josie Rush said:

You know, I can usually hang in there with a "weak" protagonist for the first part of the book, because, just assuming the author follows the most basic convention for story telling, I know change is coming. It's when I get to the middle of a book or show, and there's no growth or some really obvious regression that I get annoyed.
Yeah, I'd say Constance was a little disappointing at the begining of the play, but she went through a realistic amount of change through the entire ordeal. By the end she wasn't jumping into battles and single-handedly beheading soldiers, yet she wasn't still completey timid and worthless. She had a nice balance.
I think at the begining of the play she seemed more distracted and flustered than ditzy. When we saw her interacting with others, she wasn't in her element. She clearly had "more important" things on her mind than whether or not a student had a legitimate extension on a paper. But when she was working on her thesis, then her intelligence and talent was apparent.

Josie: Thank you! I always try to mention Anne when I can. I agree with you, as well. I actually don't think she was a ditz at all, she just didn't seem like the kind of character I can admire at the beginning of the play. She certainly grew throughout the story, though, which is why I was able to respect her in the end.

Kayla: You can mostly look at the comment I just left Josie, because I'd basically say the same to you. However, specific to you, I'd like to say thank you for enjoying my SG-1 reference :)

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Karyssa Blair on Insert Witty Title Here: Josie: Thank you! I always try
Josie Rush on Insert Witty Title Here: You know, I can usually hang i
Kayla Lesko on Insert Witty Title Here: I died at the SG1 reference.
Josie Rush on Insert Witty Title Here: Karyssa, first of all, nice An