If there is any upside to James Cameron (again) putting his foot in his mouth  —  this time by talking about Wonder Woman  —  it was the resulting conversation about how female action stars should be presented in Hollywood. As our own Emma Stefansky wrote at the time, feminism and depictions of femininity onscreen aren’t a one-size-fits-all equation; creating a false dichotomy between two types of female action stars  —  where everyone has to be either a Diana Prince or a Sarah Connor  —  only places limits on the ways women can be depicted in film and television. Filmmakers should be free to find the depictions of femininity that works for their characters.

This may seem obvious  —  just write three-dimensional characters!  —  but that hasn’t always been the case. Take Tessa Thompson, the star of the upcoming Thor: Ragnarok who previously impressed audiences in movies like Dear White People and Creed. In a recent interview with the Los Angeles Times (via Heroic Hollywood), Thompson called out how the push for strong female characters has so often been reduced to a single word in Hollywood scripts:

There’s one word I hate in all scripts in Hollywood at the moment in describing women, and that is the word “badass.” That word has just crept into every script that is pushed around this town now. It’s terrible, because it doesn’t mean anything. It’s a dumb male writer’s way of saying, ‘Ah, uh, she’s like, she, uh, she’s tough.’ Then straight after that it’s like, ‘She’s badass, but she’s got a beauty about her. And she’s sexy. Unconsciously sexy.’

So, to all you aspiring screenwriters out there: take a moment right now  —  I’ll wait  —  to search your screenplay and see if you’ve included the word ‘badass’ to describe any of your female characters. If so, delete it right away. Writing is often described as showing instead of telling, and if you cannot convey that your female character is strong and independent without explicitly putting that descriptor into your screenplay, then maybe it’s time to rethink the entire way you’ve written her. Best case scenario, you leave it as-is and you’ve lost the opportunity to work with one of our brightest rising stars. You can do better.

Thor: Ragnarok will hit theaters on November 3, 2017.

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