I am a father with three daughters, and ever since I’ve had daughter I’ve become much more aware of how awkwardly, often how outright badly, women are depicted in movies (and also TV and comics). Even if they are strong characters with compelling stories, the visual representation is often intentionally suggestive. Take a look at Star Trek Voyager‘s Seven of Nine, for example. Great character, but for goodness sake, could you just put on a jacket?
(Incidentally, this is #18 in a series of 47 posts about movies, with topics selected by my friend, each given to me after the previous one is written. For more information, check out #1 here.)
So today’s post is to suggest some female movie heroes that I’d feel comfortable with my daughter’s emulating. There’s nothing here that specifies “action” heroes, but I’m sticking primarily with that.
So here goes…
Elasti-Girl, aka Helen Parr
Played by Holly Hunter (voice only)
In: The Incredibles (2004 – directed by Brad Bird)
• Recognizes the priority of her children
• Forgives husband for his faults but does not back down from him
• Knows how to incorporate family into her calling
Elasti-Girl, or possibly Mrs Incredible, as she might be referred to, was the first character that I thought of as I considered this topic. She’s tough, resourceful, and courageous, and yet quite believable as a woman who has sacrificed her career for her family, but is not resentful about this. She’s a character I could be quite happy with my daughter’s imitating, even without the super-powers.
Played by Sigourney Weaver
In: Alien (1979 – directed by Ridley Scott); Aliens (1986 – directed by James Cameron) and some other stupid sequels
• Knows the importance of procedures
• Does not collapse into a quivering ball in the face of a murderous alien, but rather stands up to it, trash talks it, and blows it out of an airlock when necessary
• Likes cats
Now, I’m not saying that I’d allow my children to actually see any of the films that Signourney Weaver plays Ripley in, at least not at this point in their life. But let’s face it, not only is Ripley completely awesome (especially in Aliens), she is also admirable. She keeps a cool head, she doesn’t give into corporate pressures, and she is able to face the darkness without giving into it.
EVE (Extraterrestrial Vegetation Evaluater)
Played by Elissa Knight (voice only)
In: Wall-E (2008, directed by Andrew Stanton)
• Knows when to stay with the plan, and when to abandon the plan
• Appreciates a good sense of humor
• Reacts to unwanted attention from guys by shooting at them with her quasar ion cannon
EVE is really one of cinemas best female action heroes. She’s an interesting character because her presence is what provokes the story of Wall-E into action, and yet it is her character, not Wall-E, who really changes as the narrative continues. She proves to be strong, resilient, and capable of growing and learning from her mistakes. So my girls could definitely do worse.
Princess (later General) Leia Organa
Played by Carrie Fisher
In: Star Wars (1977 – directed by George Lucas); The Empire Strikes Back (1980 – directed by Irvin Kershner); Return of the Jedi (1983 – directed by Richard Marquand); Star Wars Episode VII: The Force Awakens (2015 – directed by J.J. Abrams)
• Doesn’t take no guff from any walking carpets or scruffy nerf-herders
• Doesn’t care what others think of her strange hairstyle
Leia is not my favorite character in the Star Wars saga, but there is a lot to admire about her. She understands loyalty to a cause while is at the same time able to enjoy her personal life. She’s intelligent and understands strategic thinking. She’s courageous and knows how to face danger. And she knows how to get away from any lecherous slug who tries to abuse or control her as quickly as possible. That’s a quality worth emulating, o daughters of mine!
Played by Franka Potente
In: Run Lola Run (1998 – directed by Tom Tykwer)
• Learns from mistakes
• Fiercely Loyal & doggedly persevering
• Influence random events through shear force of will
I haven’t seen Run Lola Run in a long time, and in truth there are lots of things about Lola that I don’t endorse, like the way she’s willing to rob people and is in a relationship with that idiot Manni. But this is a girl who thinks quick, doesn’t give up, and can run like nobody’s business, so there’s a lot to admire there. She’s also had something of a lousy life but overall tries to be a decent person.
Played by Georgie Henley
In: The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe (2005 – directed by Andrew Adamson); The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian (2008 – directed by Andrew Adamson) and The Chronicles of Narnia: Voyage of the Dawn Treader (2010 – directed by Michael Apted)
• Trustworthy, loyal and forgiving
• Able to adapt to unusual circumstances, including talking animals
• Works through issues of jealousy related to her sister
The Narnia films are not my favorite, but Lucy is a likeable character whose character consistently demonstrates kindness everywhere she goes, even as she faces many dangerous situations. She also understands better than any of the other characters what it means to relate to her “king” with love and intimacy, something that I think reflects the relationship that God wants to have with each of my daughters.
Played by Daisy Ridley
In: Star Wars Episode VII: The Force Awakens (2015 – directed by J.J. Abrams)
• Doesn’t sell out friends for money
• Not easily swept off her feet
• Way tougher than she appears
I know some think Rey is too good at too many things to be a proper character, but I still like her. She’s a survivor, knowing how to get by in a hostile world, but not at the expense of compassion and decency. She’s a bit overwhelmed by the bigness of what is happening to her, but that’s understandable. She quickly adapts to the situation and proves herself to be far more formidable than she first appears.
I’ve stuck with seven. Who have I missed? There were some runners-up, including Mulan, Telly Paretta (from The Forgotten), Peggy Carter (Captain America), and some others, but in the end this is what I went with. More flat-out rejected includes every James Bond female lead, Veronica Salt, Black Widow (even though my daughters love her), and Padme Amidala.