Misused: Faux Action Girl

Deadlock Clock: 15th Sep 2012 11:59:00 PM
Total posts: [17]
I started an article about it previously but nothing was really done. There is a lot of misuse of examples and personally I think the description needs reworking. It seems to boil down basically to "any female who isn't a God-Mode Sue" and it seems that if a female character doesn't win every fight or if she needs help at any point she's suddenly a Faux Action Girl. And I don't think the description saying she still counts if she takes out Mooks or has a Designated Girl Fight is fitting. Shouldn't taking out Mooks and a female opponent prove her fighting prowess? It still needs some work.
The problem is that this trope is sexist, as it describes female character who is touted as being physically feminist, but fails. The problem is, it's inherently about a sexist plot and not a sexist character. The trope is about a plot in which a girl is claimed to be as physically potent as all of the male characters or a specific subset of male characters (because there could be a male character with a Story-Breaker Power or who is The Ace and thus is unfair to compare her to) but fails to accomplish what they do. The reason why only defeating mooks or a designated female counterpart doesn't count is because unless her contribution to the plot is equal to all other men (in other words, beating the mooks or the bad chick is equally challenging for the men), she has still failed to be just as physically potent as they are within the context of the plot.

So maybe this needs a similar refocus to Amazon Chaser. Rather than being about the female character, it should be about a plot the fails to meet the requirements stated above.
I'd honestly say you could cut the trope altogether because Chickification and Informed Ability seem to cover a lot of the examples but reworking it to be about a plot could work too.
The way it's written currently makes it sound like a subtrope of Informed Ability. If an Action Girl is properly depicted as a competent fighter at one point, then later downgraded to a Red Shirt (remember that even a Red Shirt Army can kill a few mooks or distract full-fledged villains and buy time for the actual protagonists to arrive or get the Plot Coupon/MacGuffin/whatever), it's Chickafication. Conversely, if a character who is treated as competent never displays any fighting ability in the first place, that's an Informed Ability, and if said character is also presented as an Action Girl, it's this trope.

Any examples which seem to expect Action Girl to be synonymous with God-Mode Sue should be pruned, although the last scenario OP mentions is a little trickier. If both participants in the Designated Girl Fight are otherwise depicted as being roughly as capable as the male fighters, then a display of competence in such a fight should count. Otherwise, the fight may come off as an attempt to let the Action Girl "prove herself" against an opponent who otherwise wouldn't have been a meaningful challenge to the actual heroes, which doesn't really count as a contribution to either the plot or the team.

Now as for the distinction between a plot trope and a character trope, I think this kinda counts as a little of both. On the one hand, the dissonance between a character's treatment and her depiction is clearly a matter of characterization. But on the other hand, that dissonance could just as easily be the result of a plot that consistently centers on other characters, or simply forces one character to overshadow everyone else in sight.
5 nrjxll16th Jul 2012 08:30:02 PM , Relationship Status: Not war
Yeah, this is essentially Action Girl as Informed Ability. Given its nature it's always going to see a certain degree of misuse and natter that needs to be periodically pruned - this may be one of those times - but I don't see much of a problem with the actual definition.

edited 16th Jul '12 8:30:27 PM by nrjxll

blueranger is probably right that the description doesn't make it obvious why beating mooks or a purpose-built designated villainess doesn't put the Action in a Girl. So that part could use some clarification.
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Clarification and cutting of examples might be good. Basically she has a tough attitude or others say she's tough but she isn't physically as tough as she talks so she needs to be rescued. The Nostalgia Chick calls it the post-femininst damsel in distress like April O'Neil in Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. Sound good?
9 AnotherDuck12th Sep 2012 08:51:10 PM from Stockholm , Relationship Status: In season
No, the other one.
I don't think it's enough it she has a tough attitude. There are a lot of characters with attitudes they can't live up to. That's being overconfident, not this trope. If others agree, then it's another matter, unless they do it out of ignorance.

The character needs to be presented, objectively, as someone with much more skill and strength than she actually shows.
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If the character needs to be presented, objectively, as someone with much more skill and strength than she actually shows, then there are some that need to be remove (like Kayley in Quest for Camelot and Amelia Earhart in Night at the Museum 2: Battle of the Smithsonean) and the description needs to make clear why they shouldn't be there.
At it's core this trope is just about Show, Don't Tell. The Author tells us that the character is an Action Girl without showing us anything to verify that. It's not necessarily about sexism or anything else and it's entirely possible for an incompetent feminist writer to write a Faux Action Girl because they genuinely want to show a woman as superior but aren't a good enough writer to show her doing any action. It's all Show, Don't Tell the rest is details.
12 nrjxll14th Sep 2012 12:28:00 AM , Relationship Status: Not war
Specifically, it's about Informed Ability, which is caused by Show, Don't Tell (or rather the lack thereof).
13 AnotherDuck14th Sep 2012 03:21:26 AM from Stockholm , Relationship Status: In season
No, the other one.
Well, Faux Action Girl is a subtrope of Informed Ability, which in turn is a trope on the Show, Don't Tell index.
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Some examples that don't fit:

  • Kida from Atlantis: The Lost Empire. Sure she was planned to be an Action Girl and those scenes got cut but not once in the film is it stated that she has any fighting ability. And even then she still ends up using the Heart of Atlantis to save the entire city.
  • Kayley from Quest for Camelot. She's not an experienced fighter. It's made perfectly clear that before the film, she has never even left her farm. So she behaves exactly as you'd expect a naive girl with no training to behave. And she actually ends up saving the day towards the end.
  • Ginny Weasley from the Harry Potter books. This does require some thought but this trope is when an Action Girl relies on past achievements etc. Ginny does do a lot, it's just the books are from Harry's perspective so he's not there a few times when she does something. For example in the fifth book Ginny helps get them away from the Slytherins. Harry wasn't there but he still meets up with the group so obviously it happened. She "proves useless in battle" - she's never captured, she holds her own against the Death Eaters in the final battle and the one in the previous book. The only time she doesn't is because she's fourteen and has never been in battle before. And even then she still lasts longer than Hermione and Luna. Does that make them Faux Action Girls too?
  • River Tam from Firefly. Her fighting skills are never mentioned in the series because the crew has no idea what happened to her at the Academy. And she doesn't use the skills because they experimented on her mind. So she's a Faux Action Girl for not shaking off Mind Rape easily then? And she effortlessly takes out three soldiers in the second-last episode.

This trope just seems to be a source of Flame Bait, proof that Real Women Never Wear Dresses shouldn't have been reworked either
15 AnotherDuck16th Sep 2012 08:39:19 AM from Stockholm , Relationship Status: In season
No, the other one.
I thought I removed River before... Well, she's not an example. She's never depicted as being a lot more competent than she's shown to be. She's portrayed as mentally unstable, and that's how the show treats her as well. This one might have to do with her memetic status as badass, which is far more pronounced outside the actual show than in it, and by fans at that. People with that in mind may place her as a Faux Action Girl, but it's not true for the actual series.
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A mod should remove those examples as well as Amelia Earhart in Night at the Museum 2: Battle of the Smithsonean because a mod has the power to make sure they stay gone. Also the description needs to make it clear why they shouldn't be there.
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Total posts: 17