SYFY WIRE’s Cher Martinetti talks about women and female-focused storylines in genre TV


Genre TV has grown considerably over recent years and there are now more strong women and female-focused storylines. SYFY WIRE’s Cher Martinetti shares why that is in this exclusive interview.

Cher Martinetti is SYFY WIRE’s managing editor of the Fangrrls vertical and also hosts the Strong Female Characters podcast. As you would expect, she focuses on the female characters and storylines within genre TV, a topic that has grown considerably in recent years.

Whether you loved Dark Matter (that should never have been canceled), Van Helsing, or Wynonna Earp, you’ll find SYFY is focused on many types of strong women. They’re not all physically strong, but they can be emotionally strong and mentally strong. Some are good and some are evil, but they still show that women are more than just the damsel in distress.

And it’s not just SYFY shows. More networks and movie companies are putting women in the lead. They’re finally giving young girls someone to look up to. My daughter adores Wonder Woman and Supergirl because they’re women and show her she can be a superhero. Some of my favorite characters include Claire from Outlander and Prue from Classic Charmed because they highlight how positive opinionated and passionate women can be.

Cher’s Strong Female Characters podcast helps to continue that, but why did she start with it? Why is there more of a movement to bring women to the forefront of genre TV? What is the future for these types of storylines? Cher shared it all at NYCC in this exclusive interview with Hidden Remote.

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Hidden Remote: I want to start with the Strong Female Characters podcast. Where did that idea come from?

Cher Martinetti: Well, I was hosting a post-show podcast for The Expanse and I wanted to have a podcast that was all women talking about genre and just using their voices. So often, women are told not to and to be totally honest, there were a lot of nasty comments about me from the other podcast that I host. They were complaining about the fact that I existed.

From that, I wanted a space where all the voices are women. A lot of times [the comments] were saying that I said things I didn’t say or I was talking too much when actually the guy was talking way more.

I wanted to talk in a way that women would and to focus on what Fangrrls is. And I focused on the strong female characters because it can be such a negative connotation. Even as women, we can have a negative view of the trope. I wanted to redefine what a strong female character is.

To me, strength can be anything. It’s represented in so many different ways. Both myself and my co-host Preeti [Chhibber] use our voice and discuss different themes and topics in the genre.

Supergirl — Photo: Katie Yu/The CW — Acquired via CW TV PR
Supergirl — Photo: Katie Yu/The CW — Acquired via CW TV PR /

HR: Touching on the strength. It’s not just physical strength?

Martinetti: No, it’s everything. As women, we’re inherently strong just by existing right now. Being a woman that exists on the internet, we are strong just for that. And, I think, we should be empowering–I hate that word empowering–but we should be inspiring other women to figure out what their strengths are.

Whether it’s physical, emotional, whether it’s math, whether it’s science. Whatever it is, everyone has a strength in their life. I think one of the biggest is compassion and empathy. I feel like those are things women naturally embody.

HR: The maternal instinct.

Martinetti: Yeah, all those things. I think we are the stronger gender personally. There will be a lot of great comments on that one!

HR: Right! So, why are there more strong females coming to TV and movies? There are more than, say, 10 years ago.

Martinetti: There is. I think the first female protagonist in sci-fi on screen was maybe in the 50s or 60s. There was always only a couple and every decade maybe you get a few more. I think right now you get more because, quite honest, it’s the Year of the Woman and want to make money.

Cher Martinetti
Cher Martinetti /

HR: There was the push in the 90s with Buffy [the Vampire Slayer], but it dwindled down until Wonder Woman.

Martinetti: Right! I don’t mean to date myself but I remember watching Wonder Woman reruns in the 80s. There was her and Bionic Woman had TV shows, but yeah, I think companies see it as a marketing thing.

But I also think we’re getting more female creators. And when you get more women creating, when historically it’s been the straight white man, when you have a more diverse group of people contributing to the things we see and read, then you’re going to see characters that are no straight white men.

We see more women now, but it’s not 50%. I don’t even think it’s 20%.

HR: And then people complain when it is a woman or a person of color.

Martinetti: Right. It’s weird. Our society has been so molded by a patriarchy and toxic masculinity for so long. That does a disservice to women and to men and non-binary people. What we consider normal, if you go back to it, it was from the patriarchal stuff to keep certain people in a position of power. Usually, those people were straight white men.

HR: It’s not just strong women. There are more gay, lesbian, trans characters, different ethnicities.

Martinetti: Right and we should see more of that. Men and young boys should see different types of strong character, whether emotionally or physically. They should also question what that word strong means. It’s not just peacocking, strong muscles. It’s not just beating s**t up, blowing s**t up.

It’s a toxic and dangerous message for young boys and men, just like it is to women. It’s doing a disservice to everybody.

HR: Who would you say your favorite character right now, either out in a movie or a trailer.

Martinetti: Right now, Captain Marvel looks awesome. I’m also a huge Kelly Sue DeConnick fan, I stan her so hard. And her iteration of Captain Marvel is responsible for what we’re gonna see on screen. She completely changed that character so I’m excited about that.

Of all time it’s Princess Leia, absolutely. Of course, Wonder Woman! I’m just rooting for every one female.

HR: We just need one movie with them all.

Martinetti: Yeah, I just want the Spice Girls of superheroines and have everybody to crossover together. That would be my dream project.

Next. SYFY WIRE's Adam Swiderski talks about the development and future of genre TV and movies. dark

You can check out Cher Martinetti’s Fangrrls vertical at SYFY WIRE and also listen to her Strong Female Characters podcast. These are more than just places to talk about the female characters on screen but also to discuss how male characters and actors help to encourage more strong lead females.