The industry is starting to cater more to the needs of their female gendered audience. Female characters are showing up more in TV, movies, and comics; and not just for the purpose of being objectified, but for the purpose of being the lead character, the protagonist, the hero. In honor of women in sci-fi, past and present, here’s a list of 8 awesome female characters, and what makes them so awesome:
1. Xena Warrior Princess
Xena may have not been the first series starring a female lead, but the attention of her show did make it more popular. Her show paved the way for other female empowered characters like Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Xena was actually a spin-off of Hercules, where she made her first appearance as a villain that turned her life around due to her interactions with the son of Zeus. Her character had garnered quite a bit of popularity, and people tuned in to see the warrior princess in her own show. They watched her go on a journey of redemption. We get a lot of straight-laced heroes, but there’s something about a protagonist trying to be a hero, and having to work through the temptation to return to her troubled ways. She symbolized the potential for people to change, to move past their dark side and embrace the goodness that lies within, even if it’s not an easy thing to do. Xena became the protector of the people, fighting for justice along with her sidekick Gabrielle.
Xena became one of the most popular feminist icons of the 90s. She wasn’t reliant on a man to fight her battles. She was independent, and she could handle the situation herself. It wasn’t like Xena had anything against men. There were plenty of male friends she interacted with during the series, and occasionally a male love interest. It was just that her whole world didn’t revolve around men. She was too busy living her life, and helping people in need.
2. Buffy the Vampire Slayer
A while back, I saw an interview with Joss Whedon. In that interview, he was talking about how in horror films you see the stereotypical young high school girl running from the monster or bad guy. She’s scared, and helpless, and the hero, usually a man, must come and save her. It’s all pretty cliché. But Whedon wanted to counteract that cliché. What if the young girl wasn’t the one in distress? What if she was the hero? And that’s how Buffy the Vampire Slayer came to be.
Buffy was a strong character, not because she was perfect, but because she was so very, very human. She had flaws, fears, insecurities, and got depressed, just like anyone else. When she wasn’t busy being the slayer, she was a normal person with a family, friends, school, extra-curricular activities, jobs, and real life issues to tend to. There was an episode when the slayer was too depressed to be patrolling and hunting vampires because her mother had just died.
3. General/Princess Leia
A list like this has to include Princess, I mean General Leia. The beloved princess of Alderaan is one of the most famous female characters of all time and has paved the way for many other strong women characters. Princess Leia isn’t one of those prissy princesses. She doesn’t just stand around and let the guys save the day. In the original trilogy, she grabs a blaster, and helps out. Even though in A New Hope, she’s been captured by Darth Vader and is in need of rescue, she doesn’t come off as a helpless damsel. Yes, she got put in a tough spot, but she’s feisty, and once free, she’s just as much a part of the team as Luke, Han, and Chewie.
Leia stands up for what she thinks is right and she isn’t afraid to speak her mind. She’s a key member of the Rebel Alliance, aiding in the mission to overthrow the Empire. With the ability to maintain her clarity amidst all of the chaos and danger they constantly find themselves in, Leia displays the qualities of a leader. No wonder why she eventually becomes the general of the resistance.
4. Katniss Everdeen
Katniss Everdeen may lack the social skills of Peeta, but she sure has a lot of courage and heart. Usually it takes me time to warm up to characters, but I was impressed with her from the very beginning. It takes a lot of bravery to volunteer yourself into a life-threatening situation like the Hunger Games so your little sister doesn’t have to be in it. Her compassion and love for her mother, sister, the people of her district, and some of the younger kids that were forced into the Hunger Games made her a likable character. The way she took care of the little African American girl was really heart-warming. Even though I personally wasn’t a big fan of her and Peeta being together, her loyalty to him was admirable.
5. Daisy Johnson (Skye)
In the beginning of Agents of Shield, Skye is a genius hacker working for “hacktivist” group The Rising Tide in order to reveal the truth about inhumans, aliens, demi-gods, and even who her parents are. After meeting Phil Coulson, she became a member of Agents of Shield, and became a valued member of the group. Maybe it’s because she grew up as an orphan, bouncing around from foster home to foster home, and never really felt like she belonged, but once she accepts that Agents of Shield is doing work for the greater good, she shows great loyalty. Coulson’s group becomes her family, and she cares for the well-being of each and everyone of them, and cares deeply for the work they are doing to help inhumans, and to put a stop to Hydra, a dangerous organization trying to take over the world.
6. Sharon “Athena” Agathon
I know that Athena, a number eight humanoid cylon from Battlestar Galactica, is probably not someone you typically think would be on a list of badass women, but I felt that she portrayed some really great qualities. She may not have been some great viper pilot like Starbuck, or the leader of the human race like President Roslin, but she displayed inner strength and courage when dealing with a bad situation. When she’s first introduced in Battlestar Galactica, she tries to appeal to Helo, making him believe she’s Sharon “Boomer” Valerii, whom she looks identical to. The cylons want him for an experiment in which they get a human and a cylon to mate to see if they can reproduce a child. But she falls in love with Helo, and can’t subject him to any kind of experimentation against his will. She turns against her own people to save the man she loves. With her help, they’re able to escape. And ironically, she ends up pregnant with his child.
At first, Helo has a hard time adjusting to the fact that she’s a cylon, and was originally trying to deceive him, but after he sees that her love for him and their unborn child is real, he accepts and loves her. When they finally get back to Galactica, Athena is faced with persecution because she’s a cylon. Since the cylons destroyed the twelve colonies and has been trying to annihilate the human race, the humans aren’t ready to welcome her with open arms. But she wants to gain their acceptance, show them that just because she’s a cylon, she isn’t bad, and she isn’t out to destroy them. All she wants is to live in peace with Helo and their child. She gradually proves her loyalty to Admiral Adama and the human race, coming to their rescue in multiple situations and earning their trust. She even gets appointed as a Colonial Officer for her hard work and dedication, and becomes someone Adama confides in. This is one of the first steps toward the cylons and humans finding peace, and working together toward finding Earth.
7. Daenerys Targaryen (a.k.a Mother of Dragons)
I have to say that Daenerys Targaryn is quite the badass because of what she had to overcome to get to be where she is now. She started out as a victim. Even though she was born of royal blood, her father had been dethroned and killed, leaving her and her brother Viserys to flee King’s Landing, and cross the Narrow Sea and find refuge in the Free Cities. But Viserys was often cruel, and he sold her to the Dothraki khalasar, Khal Drogo, who promised that he and his 40,000 men will conquer the seven kingdoms for him. When Daenerys married Khal Drogo and became khaleesi, and was no longer under her brother’s guardianship, she started to gradually find her own sense of personal power. She became stronger, more confident, and spoke up for herself and others. At one point, when Drogo’s khalasar wanted to rape the women in a village that they had invaded, Daenerys wouldn’t allow them to.
After Viserys and Drogo’s deaths, she took her life into her own hands. The world she lived in was a male dominated world, but even so, she decided that as the last living Targaryen, the throne of the seven kingdoms belonged to her, and she started strategizing how she was going to take back her kingdoms. After Drogo’s death, most of the khalasar abandoned her, but she was able to convince 8,000 unsullied soldiers to become her army. Since the soldiers were previously slaves, she gave them their freedom, and offered them the choice to be a member of her army, or to leave if they chose. For the first time in their lives, they were able to make a choice for themselves, and they chose to stand by her. With her new army, she went on to free the slaves of Yunkai.
I think she had empathy for slaves and for people who were oppressed because of how oppressive and cruel her brother had been to her. In a lot of ways, Viserys treated her like a slave; treated her like property. In fact, he sold her off (like property) to marry a man she originally didn’t want to marry. When Daenerys announced to Viserys that she didn’t want to marry Drogo, he basically told her she had no choice. Drogo and his army were the only way for them to go back home, and for Viserys to attain the iron throne. In an episode of Game of Thrones, he says “I would let [Drogo’s] whole tribe f8ck you, all 40,000 men, if that’s what it took.” Having to overcome oppression from a brother like Viserys makes Daenerys’ triumph and empowerment even more extraordinary.
Rey is one of the newest women to join the ranks of female empowerment, and is becoming a role model for young girls and young women everywhere. In Star Wars The Force Awakens, we’re introduced to her as a scavenger living in Jakku, left behind by her family for unknown reasons. We first see a sign of her goodness when she’s offered a month’s rations of food for trading in BB-8, but she refuses to do so , and even helps BB-8 escape when First Order forces comes to take him since BB-8 has valuable information on the whereabouts of Jedi Master Luke Skywalker. This leads Rey into a series of events that introduce her to Finn, a stormtrooper that deserted the First Order; Han Solo, Chewbecca, and General Leia’s rebellion. When she gets taken hostage by Kylo Ren on Starkiller Base, Kylo Ren tries to use the force to draw the information of Skywalker’s whereabouts out of her, but she resists; the force is strong with her too. Finn, Solo, and Chewbacca come to rescue her, but when they get to the base, she’s already escaped her captivity and is basically climbing the walls, looking for a way out of there. We can give Finn, Solo, and Chewbecca credit for providing her a ride (on the Millennium Falcon!). Before they make it to the ship, Kylo Ren comes after them and injures Finn. Rey takes up Luke’s lightsaber and battles Ren, but she finds him to be a challenging foe. He tells her he can train her in the ways of the force, but Rey doesn’t give in. Eventually, she invokes the force and wins the battle. Rey helps the injured Finn to the spaceship where Chewbecca waited for their arrival, and they flew off to the Resistance base on the planet D’Qar. Once R2D2 was able to combine the information stored in his databanks with the map that BB-8 carried, he was able to track Luke’s secret location.
Rey, although originally resistant, faced her destiny to train with Luke and boarded the Millennium Falcon. When she got to the world where Skywalker was residing in, she climbed up a mountain on an island until she was face to face with the Jedi Master, offering him his lightsaber, which was also the lightsaber of his father before him, and a symbol of hope to the galaxy, the Jedi’s return.
This list doesn’t cover all the badass women in sci-fi. There are so many, especially these days, and there are more being added to the list. Can you think of any badass women in sci-fi/fantasy that should be added to the list?