Con-goers in Chicago were treated to panel that touched on double standards, feminism, and what it means to be a female on television with C2E2’s Fierce Females of TV. The panel featured Maria Doyle Kennedy (Orphan Black), Jewel Staite (Firefly), Leah Pipes (The Originals), Neve McIntosh (Doctor Who) and was moderated by Claire Kramer (Buffy the Vampire Slayer). Although the panel was meant to focus on “fierce” females, we quickly learned that female characters on television show all different sides of what it is to be a strong woman.
Jewel Staite started off the discussion by explaining that “fierce” to describe woman can have both positive and negative connotations, and can sometimes mean a bit “scary.” Maria Doyle Kennedy worded the double standard perfectly. “People might call you a bitchy diva-type, where they might call the fella in the same situation a perfectionist.” She went on to say that men don’t always know how to write female characters, or they get massed together into that familiar “bitchy diva” category. She insists that there will be more (and better) roles for women when there are more female writers who can write them realistically and genuinely.
Neve McIntosh’s character on Doctor Who, Madame Vastra, is fierce in a different way. Not only does she eat people, but McIntosh explains that “fierce makes you think that there’s a bit of power there, but I like also being quietly fierce.” She went on to say that playing Vastra as fierce and powerful was easy because they gave her a sword. One of the most interesting comments made by McIntosh and her Vastra characterization was the insistence by the show runners that she kept her natural eyes without the hindrance of contact lenses. In this way, she is able to emote as a human, as a woman, and let that vulnerability show through. Even as a monster of sorts, Vastra is incredibly human through her eyes.
The tone quickly shifted from everyone talking about what they thought “fierce” meant to an audience question regarding confidence. All of the women on the panel echoed the same sentiment: confidence is a daily struggle. Sometimes it gets easier to deal with as you age, but self-doubt is always there and constantly changing. Jewel Staite said it best when she described how relieving it was for her to stop caring about what other people think all the time. She found it “incredibly liberating” when she realized that she could not please everyone, and to focus on things that make her happy. Even in that relief, she still struggles with fear. The thing that she most wants to do in life is also the thing that she says terrifies her the most: performing on Broadway.
Leah Pipes had some real-life examples for women that she wanted to emulate. She said that the first woman she thought of when thinking about “fierce” was her mother. Indeed, for many of us, our mothers, sisters, grandmothers, aunts, and others are the first experiences we have with women. And typically we find them strong because they have years on us and can help us navigate through with their wisdom and experience. She said that as she got older, the female character that she most identified with was Jo March from Little Women.
At the end of the panel, the women featured came to the conclusion that being “fierce” was all about being strong in their femininity. Sometimes that means being vulnerable, having many layers, and believing in oneself. Even though we all have different ideas of what fierce means, it is something that nearly all women can identify with on some level. I definitely left the panel feeling empowered by my fellow women.
Erin has reviewed many shows over the years including Orphan Black, iZombie, Penny Dreadful, and Killing Eve. She has a keen eye for on-screen chemistry, and loves to tackle the subject of casting. She is also our horror aficionado. She live tweets shows, and loves to share her feelings. Erin has a BA in History, and likes to analyze the lore behind historical fiction. She attends San Diego Comic Con every year and has also attended C2E2 and WonderCon.
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