Save ‘JourneyQuest’! In Defense of Morally Ambiguous Female Characters

Entertainment GeekMom TV and Movies

Today I welcome guest actress Emilie Shimkus, who plays Wren on the fan-funded, fan-favorite show JourneyQuest, which is currently in its last day on Kickstarter! She lets us know why this show is important to the genre, and why it’s important that it succeed.

The JourneyQuest Season 3 Kickstarter ends TONIGHT, Friday 2/19 at 12am EST.
If it doesn’t get its funding by the end of Friday, this wildly popular, nerd-friendly, fan-favorite show is over. As geek, a mom, and an actor in the show, let me propose why you should care.

I think we’ve all had it up to here with “strong” women characters. Yes, of course, we want a strong woman over a week and agentless one, but somewhere along the way, “strong” became the “nice” of character descriptors for women, the adjective that would make our 2nd grade teacher kneel down by our desk and say, “Okay, but what do you mean by ‘strong?’ Can you give me some examples? What are other good words?”

Strong seems like a good thing… but what does it mean? Whether it’s a badass, asskicking woman fighting injustices or maybe a weakened, but ultimately resilient woman who finds her strength in success/love/family/adventure… strong has just become a bizarrely conflicting synonym for “unmovable” or “good.” And frankly… neither is very interesting.

Personally, as an audience member, and as a mom looking for shows to share with my kids, I’d rather see a morally ambiguous character–someone who is still developing their moral compass, a character who is conflicted, struggling with issues and decisions. Someone with room to grow, or room to deteriorate.

Photo: JourneyQuest/ZOE
Photo: JourneyQuest/ZOE

And–as an actor–I would MUCH rather play a smart, engaged, funny, seeking, struggling character than one whose description begins and ends with, “she is beautiful and strong, late 20s-early 30s.” (YES, this is often all there is to go on, and you’re lucky if you get “strong.”)

And this is why JourneyQuest matters. This is why a nerdy, fantasy realm, comedic web-series produced in the Pacific Northwest and totally fan-funded by hordes of engaged, enthusiastic geeks matters.

There are several main women characters. That’s a big starting place. In seasons 1 and 2, writer and creator Matt Vancil wrote a script where nearly half the main characters are women, there are more about to be introduced in Season 3, and all of them have room to grow. And every one of them breaks the mold of damn near every script I’ve read in the last 7 years for the following reasons.

They are funny. The women are not relegated to being the subject of, or reactor to jokes about and by the men characters. They get their own zingers and pratfalls and running gags.

They have their own goals and agendas. And–like in real life–said agendas do not always jive with the other main characters’ actions and desires, creating some great conflict and tensions.

They get to make decisions, and they are not always good decisions. These women have their own secrets and motivations, which affect their reasoning and actions, for good, bad, and all shades of grey in between.

They are not all proven good. Good is a silly word, and boring, and needs a better example for your 2nd grade teacher. Some of these women are trying to help others, some are trying to help themselves. Even the normally apparent “villains” have sympathetic qualities and backstories revealed that makes you wonder, but doesn’t tell you what to think, not just yet. Most of them do not do as they are advised, and that spells trouble as often as courage and adventure.

And most importantly, the women characters are integral to the plot. You could not simply pull them out of the story and continue. Without these women and their story arcs, their jokes, their goals and decisions and fallout, their shifting markers of morality, the entire story would stop cold.

And it will. The story will stop if we don’t get funding in less than two days. So please, help the Women of JourneyQuest keep telling their stories!

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6 thoughts on “Save ‘JourneyQuest’! In Defense of Morally Ambiguous Female Characters

  1. The photo in the middle of your article is miscredited. It’s from the ZOE production “Standard Action”.

    1. The picture I see is blond woman in green hood reading an unrolled piece of paper. That is definitely ZOE Journey Quest. That is Nara the elf played by Anne Kennedy Brady.
      Standard Action is a Rob Hunt production out of Vancouver, not ZOE. Although they are both left coast places.

      1. Okay. On my smartphone I have that picture. On my computer I’m getting a group stil from “Standard Action”. Bizarre.

  2. Fun Fact: During the shooting of JourneyQuest Season 1 Emilie was in the early stages of pregnancy. So the place of publication for this article is very appropriate ^^

    1. Well-remembered! Yes, I was 3 months pregnant with girl #1 in Season 1 and girl #2 will turn 1 year old right before we start filming. I am already on a crusade for awesome books and shows with complex, interesting women characters to share with my girlies, and I love that I will get to show them this one… in a few years. Pg-13 rating (ish) and all. 🙂

      1. I have a recommendation for a great children book with female characters: “Momo” by Michael Ende. It’s a wonderful childrens book with a lovely female main protagonist (Momo). It’s also a great read for adults, because it deals with deeper themes like work/life balance and our consumerist society.
        It’s a wonderful world and story for small children, but you can also revisit it once you grow older and find lot more nuance in it. Michael Ende illustrated the book himself and his pictures look wonderful.
        The rest of the cast is predominantly male (but interesting nonetheless) and I have never thought about how complex or morally ambigious Momo is as a character so in that aspect it might not be 100% what you are looking for, but it definitively worth doing more research on to see whether it sounds to you like something your kids might enjoy.

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