For anyone who has read my work, you know my feelings about strong female leads. Thinking back, and I mean way back, the first ones I knew were from my Saturday morning cartoons as a child. There was Rainbow Brite, She-Ra, even Jem and the Holograms. There was just one problem… they were all short skirts, pink-loving girly girls – something I am not. I’m not sure I ever was, even as a toddler. My mother bought me dresses, but I insisted that they have no “wibbons, waces, or wuffles.” It wasn’t until I neared adolescence that I was finally introduced to real female action heroes. Today, I just want to talk about some of my film favorites. These women have inspired me to write strong female characters, woman that don’t necessarily fit the Barbie mold but also haven’t been so overly masculinized that they’re more man than woman. I found it too hard to put them in any sort of favorable order, so I opted for categories.
Crossovers: These women have the best of both worlds. They make us laugh and cry in dramas or romantic comedies but can certainly crack open a can of whoop ass in science fiction, fantasy and horror.
She’s a former Miss Teen All-American, played a crack addict in Jungle Fever, gained younger fans with The Flintstones (hey, a girl’s gotta work), and made “going gray” hot with her meteorological prowess as Storm in the X-Men films. And lest we forget Catwoman – rawr!
I loved her in Girl, Interrupted and she actually brought me to tears in Changeling (disagree if you must, I care not.) But I have to say that I definitely prefer her as Mrs. Smith or Lara Croft. Yes, her breasts are (at times) annoying large, but she never lets them get in her way. If anything, they’re her best weapon.
Old School: There are plenty of truly ‘old school’ female action heroes like Wonder Woman and Foxy Brown, but they were before my time. They certainly helped to open the door for the ladies that followed.
As Lieutenant Ellen Ripley in the Alien films, we see not only a woman of respected military rank but one who refuses to give up even when everyone she knows and loves is brutally slaughtered by a merciless alien species. I’m more partial to Aliens (the second film in the series) as Ripley kicks more alien butt than before while showing her maternal side. And she has one of the best lines in the movie. (See blog post title above.)
She went from everyday princess in the late 80s television series Beauty and the Beast to the mother of the savior of mankind being hunted down by a robot from the future in The Terminator. But it really wasn’t until Terminator 2: Judgement Day that we see Sarah Connor truly ready to throw down. She certainly borders on masculine, considering she could crack a walnut simply by looking at it, but she’s still a mother first and foremost. Her son was the reason why she trained so hard, essentially becoming both mother and father to him while trying to prevent his assassination.
New School: These ladies are my current favorites, those still kickin’ ass and not even bothering with names on the big screen. I could watch them make boys cry forever.
I met her as River Tam in Firefly simply by chance. The show was cancelled, rather prematurely according to devoted fans, so I caught my first glimpse when I came across a marathon of reruns. I was instantly hooked on the show, but we really didn’t get to see River in action until Joss Whedon gave us Serenity. And she was the only reason I bothered to watch Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles.
If you don’t mind subtitles, Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon is not a film to be missed. It’s fame helped to nab her first Hollywood role in Rush Hour 2 and eventually honored her with her first lead role in Memoirs of a Geisha. She’s pure grace and speed as an action hero.
I find it almost impossible to believe that one of the highest paid supermodels in the world is now my absolute favorite female action star. Yes, I have a favorite. The Fifth Element will always be one of my “always willing to watch” sci-fi films, right up there with Blade Runner (THE best sci-fi movie EVER, in my humble opinion.) I also loved her work in The Messenger: The Story of Joan of Arc, but she will forever be a staple as far as female action heroes go since bringing us Alice in the Resident Evil films. Now, her acting career is as lucrative as her modeling career was, if not more. And to top it all off, she’s highly active in a number of charities, especially those involved in the research and treatment of various cancers.
Portraying action on paper can be difficult, but it’s a love of mine when it comes to writing. For me, it really is about the visual. I have to picture fight scenes in my head, put them into words, and hope that those same scenes are conveyed as I had intended. It’s different on film, because all you have is visual. Watching these women over the years have helped me see my own characters in a similar light. Of course there are some obvious and not-so obvious ladies I didn’t mention, like Sarah Michelle Gellar as Buffy and Naomie Harris from 28 Days Later, but I’m leaving the rest open for discussion. Consider this… when the zombie apocalypse hits or aliens come seeking world domination, who would you want on your side?