Glad this thread finally got opened for discussion. Anyway, going to play with all the questions Karalora asked - hopefully - and use one of my favorite movies as an example of gender equality in media done right...James Cameron's Aliens
This may seem an odd example, but here's why I hold it up. You can gender-flip any
of the characters in the movie and thanks to the context we're given, all of them still remain believable. For almost all the characters you would not have to change much of anything if you wanted to do this. random aside
All of the characters have good solid reasons for being in the plot that have nothing to do with their gender. We have competent members of both genders, and at very few times is gender even an issue.
Another funny point; if I were going to make Aliens
for a 2013 audience (and it was a standalone story) I'd make Ripley a man. Why? Because about the only part of the movie that has not aged well is Ripley's Mama Bear
tendencies. Sure, it was cool in 1986 when the movie came out - and most of us love that one line.
But these days you can't swing a cat without having an Action Girl
try to kick your ass for doing it, and the whole "woman goes Hulk to protect children" thing has gotten a bit stale. For a modern audience I think it'd be cooler having a man doing that job. A good many fathers I know have problems with the lack of media father figures taking the job seriously, and seeing one would make them happy.
And playing back into what I said above, you could make Hicks a woman and change absolutely nothing
about his dialogue or actions...yet the character would still work. Same thing with Ripley. Even the romantic sub-plot between the two of them stays intact.
My take; the best way to tell if a character is stable is to gender-flip them and see what happens. If they still "work", that is they stay believable and sympathetic (or unsympathetic in the case of characters designed to be antagonists), the character is probably realistic. If the character suddenly changes drastically, there's probably a stereotype being employed somewhere.
Admittedly this is a rough barometer and does get pretty subjective at times. But I still think it works as a vague indicator. Thoughts?