When you think of "strong female characters," who do you think of? Murphy Cooper from Interstellar? Agent Maya in Zero Dark Thirty? Jessica Chastain has played some incredibly complex characters who have been consequential in things like national security, animal activism, and saving the entire planet and humankind. She's undoubtedly heard her roles called "strong female characters" more times than she can count, and today, she decided to shut that down once and for all.
"Everytime someone writes that I play 'strong women' what theyre implying is that most women arent. How about I just play well written parts?" Chastain wrote on Twitter. "You never read that an actor is known for playing 'strong male' characters because its assumed all men are."
The idea of a "strong female character" is a tired trope. It's a way to minimize the complex dimensions that women have, even fictional women. Chastain is right when she points out that male characters aren't called "strong," because the implication is that they already are. Is there a need to point out that Christian Bale as Batman is strong? Or Jordan B. Steele in Black Panther? Of course not. But women have this label slapped on us all the time, as if our strength needs a qualifier. Maybe, just maybe, we don't need to call female characters "strong," we can just assume that they are, the same as we do with men.
This isn't the first time Chastain has called out old Hollywood stereotypes. She's also talked about the lack of diversity in network casting, being on set with other women (as though women at work are primed for competition), and not seeing enough women telling their own stories from their own point of view. Even when she stumbles, she still has a desire to learn, and it's what makes her voice so potent in Hollywood today. We hope she never stops speaking up.