Wonder Woman and the Rise of Girl Power in Nerd Culture
Since the release of Wonder Woman there has been a lot pf pressure placed on the Amazonian super hero (Gal Gadot) as well as her amazing director, Patty Jenkins to become pillars in the progress of female super heroes and directors in Hollywood as well as women everywhere. She’s been compared to Rosie the riveter and many other feminist icons as the bad ass role model that this generation needs. And they’re not wrong. These two women (along with Robin Wright, Connie Nelson and the rest of the cast and crew) have proven that the comic book movie scene doesn’t need to be a boys club and that it’s not the gender of the people involved in a project that make it a success; it’s the talent, ambition and energy contributed by these people that can inspire people and build a flourishing industry.
That said, Wonder Woman isn’t the only character that has busted the glass ceiling and shown that women can be intelligent, powerful and successful in spite of what society tells them. Here’s a list of bad ass female characters that have paved the way for Wonder Woman's success as a feminist icon.
Ellen Ripley "Alien" (1979)
- Ripley is the original, female, action hero bad ass. She was the last surviving member of the Nostromo and the only person able to rise to the challenge of defeating the Xenomorphs. Overcoming horrors that no person should ever have to witness, in the most lethal and claustrophobic environment imaginable, she was able to survive because of her strength, cunning, and her unwillingness to give up. Oh and I almost forgot about her amazing ability to operate heavy machinery better than any man.
Mulan “Mulan" (1998)
- Mulan is a young woman who, at the beginning of her story, feels powerless in helping her sick father when the Chinese Empire comes to their home to call him to war. She transforms herself to look and act like a man. Cutting her hair and stealing her fathers armor she boldly leaves in the night to take his place. She hides her identity and becomes a legend when she pretty much single-handedly thwarts the Mongolian invasion of China. She's a powerful warrior and her bravery knows no bounds. Her resourcefulness and creativity in tight situations helps her always stay ahead of the competition.
Katniss Everdeen "Hunger Games franchise" (2012-2015)
- Katniss was born and raised as a citizen in District 12. When her sisters name is drawn for the Hunger Games, her world is turned upside down. Katniss offers herself as tribute, in turn exchanging her own life for her sisters. She survives the games due to her keen sense of guerilla tactics, loyalty, archery and her drive to change the status quo. After witnessing and surviving the horrors of the games she becomes the icon of the revolution that overthrows the corrupt government. People follow her and trust her leadership because of her honesty and her unbiased compassion towards others.
Lara Croft (Rise of the Tomb Raider)
- Lara Croft spent many of her first years being idolized by mostly men for a few...certain... overly exaggerated body parts. She was never really given a chance to rise to her full potential as a bad ass female archeologist until recently. Over the last few years, Lara Croft has gone through some what of a transformation gaining new ground and a new sense of respect and identity from gamers and especially women. With her new, normalized proportions she's able to showcase her amazing talents in weapons training, military tactics, survival, historical knowledge, languages, humor and intense drive, she has risen to a whole new level of female icon.
Most Studio Ghibli Main Characters
- I’ve debated this one for a while and i've come to the conclusion that the solutions are too numerous. Perhaps I’ll do a list of "female leads in Ghibli movies” separately another time; but for now, this will do. One of the things Miyazaki does well in his movies is showcasing the best and worse parts of humanity, usually focusing on the fantastical journeys of young women protagonists. Wether it’s Naussica and the Valley of the Wind, Princess Mononoke, Spirited Away, or Totoro, these movies all showcase the varieties of scenarios and decisions a young woman might face and in turn, the consequences of those actions. With a strong focus on the symbiosis of mankind and nature, and proving their independence, these characters are incredibly resilient and are always able to overcome the most seemingly insurmountable challenges.
Aloy "Horizon Zero Dawn" (2017)
- Aloy, born an outcast of her tribe, trains from a young age to prove to her people that she is worthy of their acceptance. On the day of her proving her village is destroyed and the elders grant her the title of Seeker to defeat the evils that were brought upon their land. She is incredibly skilled in archery, survival, stealth, basic weapons and hacking. Her intelligence and her likable personality allow her to help and recruit small factions of support throughout the land and rid the world of evil. She's the kind of person that people can rely on no matter what the task is. Plus she has amazing hair. She is a much needed female lead in the male saturated video game industry. As it is hard to find games with female protagonists let alone female protagonists that you HAVE to play as (meaning you can’t switch to be a man.
Scully “The X-Files”
- Dana Scully is one of the main characters from the hit sci-fi fi TV show the X- Files. She is a forensic scientist who along with her partner Fox Mulder, are given the task of solving and disproving the X-Files. Dana struggles to grasp the conspiracy theories and fanatical rants of her partner as she attempts to hold these cases to a scientific standard. Her dedication to the truth, friends and family help give her strength to push on even after being abducted by aliens and almost killed by countless creatures and people. Even though she's a sucker for rules, she's not afraid to bypass certain FBI restrictions on some cases in order to make the best analysis of a situation. She usually only plays this card when her male superiors point out how hysterical she sounds... they always regret it.
The Women Who Rule Star Wars
- This was another group that had me scratching my head as far as who I wanted to highlight. As with Studio Ghibli, Star Wars is full of powerful female characters. Leia Organa is the classic space princess/rebellion general who helped pave the way for strong female characters in the scifi genre. With the new additions of Rey and Jyn Erso and of course Queen Amadala, it's hard to choose a favorite. They are all natural born leaders, independent, confident, charismatic, and powerful. They will stop at nothing to liberate the galaxy from tyranny, even if it means risking their own lives. Their loyalty extends beyond their personal desires and gives them a strong platform to lead from.
Hermione "Harry Potter franchise" (2001-2011)
- Hermione Granger is the Swiss Army knife of female role models. If you don't already know who she is and why she made this list, you need to watch the Harry Potter movies and definitely read the books. Hermione is a super intelligent student who excels in nearly every subject. She's a natural when it comes to academics and she makes learning cool. At times she can be a little stubborn but this allows her to keep her friends in check when their devious nature gets the best of them. A common theme on this list is loyalty and Hermione is the poster child for this concept. Even when her friends and fellow students tease her for her dedication to academia, she is always there for them and manages to help people even when they don't run in the same social circles.
Moana "Moana" (2016)
- Moana is the latest heroin from the amazing character factory that is Disney and Pixar. These studios have answered the call to feminism in bringing stories about young women who are smart, strong, and independent to the big and small screen. Stories that are no longer about finding a man to complete one’s sense of self, but instead about finding happiness with who you are. Herein lies Moana, When we first meet her she is a young princess with an inescapable sense of adventure that distracts her from her assumed responsibilities. At a very early age she questions the system she was bound by and strives to build a life around her interests and personal choices as opposed to just playing the hand she's dealt. She's charming, intelligent, and has no fear of change or the unknown. She's such a good negotiator that she's able to enlist the help of an arrogant Demi God to help her on her travels. She's an amazing hero and a wonderful role model for anyone. Have no fear and don't let the world tell you who you are. You make your own destiny.
This is just a short list of the numerous amazing woman we encounter in games, movies, comics, and other entertainment. There are so many others I could write about, but these woman rose to the top of my personal list. While there is still a long way to go before there is true, unquestionable equality across all of these industries, you can find comfort knowing that Wonder Woman isn't leading the charge alone. Please leave a comment and let us know who your favorite female characters are and how they inspire you!