Now, to clarify, we're not talking about female characters who aren't helpless or female characters who have integrity. We're not really talking about strong female characters at all--at least, not well-written ones.
What we're talking about are Dumb Fantasy Fulfillment Characters, and yes, I happen to find them annoying even when they are carefully crafted to appeal to my demographic.
Why? Because they're 1. Dumb, 2. Violent, and 3. Unrealistic.
My personal nominee for worst Strong Female Character is Dr. Temperance Brennan from the TV show Bones. In the pilot, Dr. Brennan beats the shit out of a TSA agent. Does she get a one-way ticket to Guantánamo? Does she spend the next decade in prison for assaulting a federal law-enforcement official? Does she get into trouble with her employer, the very same federal government that employs the poor slob she just beat the hell out of?
Of course not. Say it with me: She's spunky!
Oh, violence is so adorable, isn't it? As long as the person who kicked your teeth in to retaliate for you doing your job is female and has big blue eyes, it's just as cute as hugging a widdle baby bunny!
The extra-magical bit about Dr. Brennan is that, although she is anorexic and never, ever exercises, she can easily pound the crap out of people with combat training who are ten times her size. Why? Because she's a martial-arts master! Who never trains! Or exercises! She's just like--and I mean, exactly like--those models who just happen to stay rail-thin without dieting and have shiny hair and perfect skin and it's definitely not because there's a massive team of people working behind the scenes and Photoshopping every picture. She's just perfect, you know? Just Perfect.
The Strong Female Character is a new bottle, but it's the same old wine.
And not for nothing, but the new, seemingly-PC layer of shellac over this particular turd is not really progressive. Basically, it's valorizing violence, with the patronizing and, yes, extremely sexist twist that if a woman is violent, it's OK, because she's just so gosh-darned cute.
Violence is not cute. Where I grew up, everyone, including girls, was expected to fight--and yes, I fought boys, what choice did I have? As an adult I look back and am really shocked (those schools should have been shut down), but at the time, it was just the way of things, and you either fought back or stood there while someone punched you in the mouth.
Unlike the kids who had the misfortune of being small or disabled, I happen to be big enough that I did just fine, but I never liked it. I actually stood there and took the mouth shots on occasion because the other kid wasn't going to be able to cause me serious injury and I really didn't want to mix it up. Even if I won, I lost, so what was the point? I was hugely relieved to leave home and realize that, in other parts of the country, fist fights are not considered an acceptable method of self-expression.
Violence against women is very bad, but what kind of morality goes on to argue that violence by woman is totally cool. (And fun! And spunky! And cute!) But I've seen women just eat up the Strong Female Character thing, claiming that it's "Girl Power." Jesus. If you think power comes from being a thug, I hope you heartily enjoy the empowerment of prison.