In the last few years, we’ve seen an increase in the number of kickass women appearing in the lead roles in television, film and theatre. Here’s a few of my all-time favorites in honor of Women’s History Month, which runs for the whole of March every year. And yes, there’s a definite focus on Star Wars and Marvel; hey, at least I know what I like, okay?
1. Princess Leia (Star Wars). A lot of female leads exist only in relation to their male counterparts, designed to give the story a romantic subplot or provide a damsel in distress for the hero to save and prove his strength (manhood) to the audience. Leia was unusual in that she wasn’t subordinate to the male leads, although she was part of a romantic subplot, that wasn’t the purpose of her character or the chief focus of her storyline. I remember watching Star Wars for the first time as a kid in the early nineties and for the first time finding a female character that I could relate to, one that seemed a little more realistic and believable. She was a rebel and a fighter; a strong figure who never backed down from a fight and will continue to provide young girls with a hero to look up to for many years to come.
2. Rey (Star Wars: The Force Awakens). The response to Rey (Daisy Ridley) was a wake-up call for the action figure/movie merchandising industry. Before The Force Awakens it was often ridiculously hard to track down female action figures; the Princess Leia figures sold well in the ‘70s as did Wonder Women dolls but they were rare for the genre. There was a huge public backlash after Daisy Ridley’s now beloved character was left out of a lot of The Force Awakens merch in favour of John Boyega’s Finn and Adam Driver’s Kylo Ren, despite arguably being the main character. Director J.J. Abrams joined fans in kicking up a fuss and the error was quickly rectified in the second wave of toys. Funnily enough, it was the Rey toys that flew off the shelves faster than any of the others. Star Wars does a good line in strong, funny, relatable, kickass female characters.
3. Natasha Romanoff aka Black Widow (Captain America/The Avengers). That there’s no standalone Black Widow movie is a glaring omission in the otherwise quite brilliant MCU (other than Age of Ultron; I get what they were trying to do there but it just didn’t work). Natasha is often seen as the token female character in the movies, although the introduction of the Scarlett Witch/Wanda Maximoff and Sharon Carter is changing that perception, albeit fairly slowly. Women aren’t always treated particularly well in comic books and even when they are, there’s a tendency to make the costumes unnecessarily figure hugging (although anyone who’s seen Superman or The Flash can attest to the fact that this isn’t always a gendered problem). In my mind, however, Natasha, who started with a relatively small role in Iron Man 2 that grew considerably in the Avengers and Captain America movies, is relatable, strong and independent. She’s everything I want in a female superhero, partly because she’s not a mutant in any kind of way, just really freaking skilled, strong and terrifying. I could do without the train wreck of the Natasha/Bruce relationship storyline though; where on Earth are they planning to go with that?!
4. Zoe Washburne (Firefly). The women in Firefly are all kickass but Zoe’s always been my favorite, I think because she’s low key in her awesomeness but never fails to let someone know when she thinks their being an idiot. Which is pretty often because the men in Firefly are… um… not always particularly clever or in touch with their feelings. Zoe’s intelligent, cool and powerful. She’s no damsel in distress and she knows it. Her relationship with Mal is one of respect and friendship; he even occasionally bows to her (far) superior wisdom, which is unusual for a character as cocky as he is. I love Zoe, I’ve always loved Zoe and I’ll never stop loving Zoe (and secretly wanting to be her).
5. Jessica Jones (Marvel’s Jessica Jones). I don’t have any first-hand knowledge of Jessica Jones because I haven’t see the show yet. I know, I know, it’s on my list as soon as I watch the hundred other things that are also on the list. That said, I have made time for reading about the character and so far, I like what I’m hearing. She’s strong, independent and complex. And she wears regular clothes, not the form fitting spandex that Marvel likes to force its female heroes into (kudos to Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D for managing to strike a good balance between the two). A modern superhero, she has a constant scowl, drinks cheap bourbon and unashamedly enjoys sex; she’s a real person, in other words. She even has a personal storyline that pulls no punches and steers firmly clear of any damsel tropes; she has post-traumatic stress disorder after being psychologically tortured and manipulated by super villain Kilgrave (David Tennant), but she can’t be doing with therapy, dismissing it as “circle jerking with a bunch of whiners”.
Who’s in your kickass list? Let us know!