The Female Character Flowchart

Are you there, God? It's me, Flowchart.

At the risk of being called a penis-bashing dog-faced psycho feminazi* again, I’m going to talk about gender today! (Woo! Gender!) More precisely, I’m going to show off this crazy infographic I made with Carlos A. Hann Commander.  Think of this piece as a visual aid for my strong female character article, my piece about likability in fiction, Belinkie’s awesome piece about Chris Nolan’s women, or any of the other gender-related articles on this site.  Better yet, you can use this graphic the next time you write your own original female character and wonder if she’s a cliché or not. I know how hard writing original characters can be, and I hope this flowchart can help you out.

Before we get to the graphic itself, here are some explanations and caveats.

  1. This flowchart focuses on the one- and two-dimensional female characters we see over and over again in modern fiction.
  2. The graphic does not include every type of female character that has ever existed, but I did my best to focus on the most important tropes.
  3. Some of the listed tropes might be considered crazy-sexist, and others represent more positive stereotypes. The tropes are subjective, and they exist on a continuum of sexism.  Consider Family Guy’s Lois Griffin (who falls under the category of “Perfect Wife”).  Lois isn’t a particularly complex female character, and the idea of a fun-loving sexpot wife who stands by her man no matter what he does is kinda-sorta sexist, in that this character is a fantasy fetish figure tailor-made for adolescent male audiences.  But as far as sitcom housewives go, I’d much prefer to watch a Lois-type character than a classic sitcom shrew like Debra from Everybody Loves Raymond. At least Lois represents a more positive (and sex-positive) stereotype.
  4. If you’re a writer and you find that one of your characters fits one of the categories on this chart, there’s no need to panic (or start yelling at me)!  Two-dimensional characters are the backbone of fiction, especially fantasy fiction and most comedies.
  5. However, if you find that all or most of your main male protagonists are well-developed and all or most of your female characters are not, you should probably start worrying a little.  (Chris Nolan.)
  6. When you get to the “love interests” section of this chart, be aware that it refers primarily to heterosexual relationships. It’s not that I’m trying to be heteronormative; it’s that, hey, we’re talking about modern pop culture here.  How often do you see homosexual rom/coms or long-term lesbian relationships on TV or in the movies?  (Porn doesn’t count.)  The exception, of course, is The Wire, but then Kima and her girlfriend were obviously well-developed strong female characters who wouldn’t be found in this flowchart in the first place.
  7. Obviously, this chart in no way applies that there aren’t male stereotypes out there in the pop culture ether.  There are.  Obviously. But it seems like Hollywood has a significantly harder time writing non-stereotypical female characters than male ones, so I made this chart to help out.

And that’s it!  Enjoy the flowchart-y goodness after the jump.

*Hey, guys, I’m also Jewish.  Couldn’t you stick a “Yid” or two in there?