It is a pretty common occurrence in various fandoms where there is a character or two who receives a lot of hate for one reason or another. The Legend of Zelda is no exception and Zelda is unfortunately one of those characters. It makes me sad. As a result I felt the need to create some sort of defense for her.
The most common reason for people hating Zelda is the fact that she gets captured a lot. After all, someone who is captured a lot is obviously weak, right? Not nessesarily. In Zelda's case being taken prisoner is often a choice she makes in an attempt to protect her people. A good example of this is in Twilight Princess where Zelda surrenders Hyrule Castle to Zant instead of fighting against his forces. She does this to avoid sacrificing lives needlessly and with the hope that her people would remain safe. Not an easy descision I'm sure, and not one she made lightly. It took a lot of strength to be able to do such a thing so it bugs me when people think ill of her for it.
I think something else, too, is that people seem to mistaken the term of "strength" as being able to fight. If you have a big gun and are badass you are considered to be strong and if you can't fight you are considered to be weak. However, something people don't seem to realize is that strength can come in many different forms––even the smallest voice can have the hugest impact. Some of the strongest characters I've seen don't fight at all––or just do very poorly at it––and are absolutely incredible. Some offer support or advice or work toward boosting moral, or even take no action at all––they're something like the "unsung hero" that no one seems to really notice or pay any attention to and are often overlooked as a result.
In Zelda's case her strength comes from her wisdom and her ability to make decisions on what she feels to be right or wrong. While she doesn't always make the right decisions she will admit her mistakes instead of blaming others and will work toward making things right. For that I think she's absolutely incredible.