Emilia Clarke hates this sexist interview question. She makes a good point.

Let's be real: Daenerys Targaryen is the best character on "Game of Thrones."

She's walked through fire. She's the mother of dragons. She inspires undying loyalty in others. And most of all: She's not afraid to take charge when she needs to. (Did I mention the dragons?)

A character who can literally call upon the power of scaly, fire-breathing helpers at any time ain't someone to mess with. Oh, and she's kind too!


Photo via "Game of Thrones"/HBO.

Daenerys is a total BAMF — but don't call her a "strong female character."

She's much more than that. She's brave; she's honorable; she's venerated; she doesn't give up. And Emilia Clarke, the actor who plays her, wants everyone to stop viewing female characters in a "weak/strong" binary.

Speaking to Variety at Cannes, Clarke said that she's tired of being asked what it's like to play a "strong woman," calling the trope out as reductive and sexist. And you know what? She's absolutely right. Instead of telling reporters what it's like to play "a strong woman," Clarke's just going to tell you what it's like to play a woman.

"Take the 'strong' out of it. Find another adjective, dammit. I'm just playing women," Clarke said. "If it’s not strong, what is it? Are you telling me there’s another option, that there’s a weak option? You think a lead in a movie is going to be a weak woman?"

Clarke went on to point out that such questions aren't posed to male actors, whose characters' are thought of as strong regardless of whether they're toting rocket launchers through the tundra or fighting emotional demons. You'd find it weird if Netflix had a category for "Strong Male Leads," so why is the opposite OK?

Photo by Valerie Macon/Getty Images.

Clarke's right. And she's not alone.

The "strong female character" descriptor is being taken to task in Hollywood. After decades of being seen as a compliment, more and more actors, producers, and directors are making it clear that explicitly stating a female character is strong is making the assumption that other female characters, and women in general, somehow aren't.

In early 2018, Shonda Rhimes got real about the fact that "women are women." Stop with the compartmentalizing.

"There are no Dumb Weak Women," she wrote. "A smart strong woman is just a WOMAN. Also? 'Women' are not a TV trend — we're half the planet."

Academy Award nominee Jessica Chastain quickly backed her up, pointing out that she's often told to go for "strong characters" when the reality is that Hollywood should be focused on "well written women" instead.

Clarke also has some ideas for better questions to ask.

"'What does it feel like to play someone with power?' or 'How does it feel to play a female lead in a big blockbuster movie?'" Clarke suggested. These types of questions are far more interesting anyway.

The questions asked in interviews affect the way women, and women characters are seen. Viewing women only in the context of "strong or weak" perpetuates the idea that these are the only ways to describe them. Reporters aren't the only ones who need to be more aware that female characters should be conceptualized outside their gender. We've got to do better.

Images courtesy of John Scully, Walden University, Ingrid Scully
True

Since March of 2020, over 29 million Americans have been diagnosed with COVID-19, according to the CDC. Over 540,000 have died in the United States as this unprecedented pandemic has swept the globe. And yet, by the end of 2020, it looked like science was winning: vaccines had been developed.

In celebration of the power of science we spoke to three people: an individual, a medical provider, and a vaccine scientist about how vaccines have impacted them throughout their lives. Here are their answers:

John Scully, 79, resident of Florida

Photo courtesy of John Scully

When John Scully was born, America was in the midst of an epidemic: tens of thousands of children in the United States were falling ill with paralytic poliomyelitis — otherwise known as polio, a disease that attacks the central nervous system and often leaves its victims partially or fully paralyzed.

"As kids, we were all afraid of getting polio," he says, "because if you got polio, you could end up in the dreaded iron lung and we were all terrified of those." Iron lungs were respirators that enclosed most of a person's body; people with severe cases often would end up in these respirators as they fought for their lives.

John remembers going to see matinee showings of cowboy movies on Saturdays and, before the movie, shorts would run. "Usually they showed the news," he says, "but I just remember seeing this one clip warning us about polio and it just showed all these kids in iron lungs." If kids survived the iron lung, they'd often come back to school on crutches, in leg braces, or in wheelchairs.

"We all tried to be really careful in the summer — or, as we called it back then, 'polio season,''" John says. This was because every year around Memorial Day, major outbreaks would begin to emerge and they'd spike sometime around August. People weren't really sure how the disease spread at the time, but many believed it traveled through the water. There was no cure — and every child was susceptible to getting sick with it.

"We couldn't swim in hot weather," he remembers, "and the municipal outdoor pool would close down in August."

Then, in 1954 clinical trials began for Dr. Jonas Salk's vaccine against polio and within a year, his vaccine was announced safe. "I got that vaccine at school," John says. Within two years, U.S. polio cases had dropped 85-95 percent — even before a second vaccine was developed by Dr. Albert Sabin in the 1960s. "I remember how much better things got after the vaccines came out. They changed everything," John says.

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When "bobcat" trended on Twitter this week, no one anticipated the unreal series of events they were about to witness. The bizarre bobcat encounter was captured on a security cam video and...well...you just have to see it. (Read the following description if you want to be prepared, or skip down to the video if you want to be surprised. I promise, it's a wild ride either way.)

In a North Carolina neighborhood that looks like a present-day Pleasantville, a man carries a cup of coffee and a plate of brownies out to his car. "Good mornin!" he calls cheerfully to a neighbor jogging by. As he sets his coffee cup on the hood of the car, he says, "I need to wash my car." Well, shucks. His wife enters the camera frame on the other side of the car.

So far, it's just about the most classic modern Americana scene imaginable. And then...

A horrifying "rrrrawwwww!" Blood-curdling screaming. Running. Panic. The man abandons the brownies, races to his wife's side of the car, then emerges with an animal in his hands. He holds the creature up like Rafiki holding up Simba, then yells in its face, "Oh my god! It's a bobcat! Oh my god!"

Then he hucks the bobcat across the yard with all his might.

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Images courtesy of John Scully, Walden University, Ingrid Scully
True

Since March of 2020, over 29 million Americans have been diagnosed with COVID-19, according to the CDC. Over 540,000 have died in the United States as this unprecedented pandemic has swept the globe. And yet, by the end of 2020, it looked like science was winning: vaccines had been developed.

In celebration of the power of science we spoke to three people: an individual, a medical provider, and a vaccine scientist about how vaccines have impacted them throughout their lives. Here are their answers:

John Scully, 79, resident of Florida

Photo courtesy of John Scully

When John Scully was born, America was in the midst of an epidemic: tens of thousands of children in the United States were falling ill with paralytic poliomyelitis — otherwise known as polio, a disease that attacks the central nervous system and often leaves its victims partially or fully paralyzed.

"As kids, we were all afraid of getting polio," he says, "because if you got polio, you could end up in the dreaded iron lung and we were all terrified of those." Iron lungs were respirators that enclosed most of a person's body; people with severe cases often would end up in these respirators as they fought for their lives.

John remembers going to see matinee showings of cowboy movies on Saturdays and, before the movie, shorts would run. "Usually they showed the news," he says, "but I just remember seeing this one clip warning us about polio and it just showed all these kids in iron lungs." If kids survived the iron lung, they'd often come back to school on crutches, in leg braces, or in wheelchairs.

"We all tried to be really careful in the summer — or, as we called it back then, 'polio season,''" John says. This was because every year around Memorial Day, major outbreaks would begin to emerge and they'd spike sometime around August. People weren't really sure how the disease spread at the time, but many believed it traveled through the water. There was no cure — and every child was susceptible to getting sick with it.

"We couldn't swim in hot weather," he remembers, "and the municipal outdoor pool would close down in August."

Then, in 1954 clinical trials began for Dr. Jonas Salk's vaccine against polio and within a year, his vaccine was announced safe. "I got that vaccine at school," John says. Within two years, U.S. polio cases had dropped 85-95 percent — even before a second vaccine was developed by Dr. Albert Sabin in the 1960s. "I remember how much better things got after the vaccines came out. They changed everything," John says.

Keep Reading Show less