My husband and I had a discussion in the car (ADD moment: Men seem rather confused as to what constitutes and argument with a woman) about something my brother said:
“He said words don’t mean anything,” my husband told me, obviously a bit frustrated. “I know what he means, but if it were true, we wouldn’t use words at all.”
“It’s funny,” I said in reply, “because Rush Limbaugh is always saying “words mean things” and I know he listens to Rush.”
“I know he means that actions speak louder than words, but it doesn’t mean that words aren’t important.”
“You’d never tell a writer that words don’t mean anything,” I agreed, “but as proven by Hollywood and Washington, DC, what matters most is the actions behind the words.”
“Follow through,” he agreed, but only because he knows that empty promises, not only those from politicians or Hollywood talking heads, but those from spouses, parents and friends.
And what exactly does this have to do with “Strongest Female Characters,” you may be asking yourself right now. Well… when I ran across this post while surfing this morning: http://theallegiant.com/top-12-strongest-female-movie-characters , it made me seriously think we had come to a post directly strictly at who could use a weapon most effectively and I thought “do we understand what strength means anymore?” (This is not unlike my train of thought with my last post about Common Sense).
Strength, as defined by Merriam Websters Dictionary Online, is:
1: the quality or state of being strong : capacity for exertion or endurance
2: power to resist force : solidity, toughness
3: power of resisting attack : impregnability
4 a : legal, logical, or moral force b : a strong attribute or inherent asset
Now that we know what it means, we can decide which meaning we want to apply, and how to apply it. I prefer to use all 4 of the definitions. I’ll put my list up and compare it to the author picks that inspired this blog:
1. Ivy Walker: The Village
There is no one to compare Ivy to in the original list. Ivy is blind, but her heart is open. She talks a little too much, but that’s probably to be expected. It’s ironic then, that she falls in love with the least communicative person in the entire Village. But once her heart is given over, the only person who apparently has an equal amount of inner strength, is the man she loves. When he is wounded (what would be mortally wounded in the village) she goes on a quest, alone, to save his life. She is the prime example of strength in all of it’s forms. Though she is too young to know it, the elders see it, and have to acknowledge it if the village is to continue.
2. Sarah Conner: Terminator series (Sarah Conner Chronicles)
Sarah Conner isn’t as regal as Elizabeth (that’s Queen Elizabeth), Jennifer’s #7 pick on the list. Nor was she born to power, raised knowing exactly what would be expected of her while worrying over what impact every thing she did would have on an entire country. Sarah might fit on any point in this list, but she’s #1 because she showed the sort of strength that we all expect of people in times of trouble, but so rarely get.
Sarah went from a waitress to a savior of humanity in just a few decades, putting her on a parallel with Jesus Christ (j/k). Her transformation begins with self preservation, matures to love, and then comes to it’s fullness as she realizes it’s not just about her or her son, but all humanity. There’s not a lot of deep philosophy with Sarah, just a basic, common sense action founded on trusted sources and gut instincts. She is the ultimate “momma bear” and no “tiger mom” could replace her.
3. Eowyn: Lord of the Rings
That anyone thought Uma Thurman looked like she could take on anyone with Kitana’s alone is amusing in itself. Lucy Lawless of Xena fame could have probably broke Uma in half with her bare hands. That said, Kill Bill’s (the #3 pick) Beatrix Kiddo is exactly the kind of action movie that most people love. It’s mindless entertainment with no real point except in denying reality. There is absolutely nothing wrong with fantasy, unless it’s pointless. Tolkien introduced us to fantasy through the mirror of myth, which always had a point. Eowyn is the only female character with a presence in Lord of the Rings. Eowyn is a happy thought away at home, and Galadriel is a pit stop on the way to war. Eowyn is beautiful, sought after by the scheming Wormtongue, and given authority when her Uncle, the King, is absent, but these are not what she wants. Everything she wants, she is unable to have. She wants Aragorn, but his heart belongs to Arwen. She wants to fight and earn her glory, instead of having it handed to her through lineage or beauty, but she can’t fight, because she is a woman. Her plight is not unsimilar to Merry’s. He isn’t allowed to fight because he is a hobbit and so they team up, so to speak. But unlike Kill Bill’s heroine, there is no mindless action. Eowyn’s story is a deep moral and philosophical plight that is summed up best in the book: Tolkiens Ordinary Virtues, (a book I can’t recommend highly enough), by Mark Eddy Smith. She is strong in almost all the ways listed in the definition of the word.
4. Princess Leia: Star Wars
Jennifer’s pick #4 Ripley from Aliens is one I agree should be in a top twelve list, so keep reading, maybe she’ll make it.
While Ripley is a scientist in space that all guys can appreciate, Princess Leia is a scrappy little princess that gives nerds wet dreams in a way that Ripley can only dream of. (Heh) PLUS, Princess Leia gets the guy. She actually gets both guys, while Ripley’s guys all die, sometimes twice (okay, maybe androids can’t technically ‘die’). Even Ripley’s hybrid babies die. While Ripley may have saved the Earth from “Aliens,” (though the Preditor Vs Aliens movie puts that in question), Princess Leia is the undisputed leader of a Rebellion that rid the entire Galaxy of an oppressive regime–and she did it without a bra.
Joking aside, Princess Leia embodies the truth that making good decisions and good friends is vital to a life intent on spreading light and enlightenment to an entire Galaxy. It also helps to have strength enough to choke Jabba the Hutt, and intelligence to know when it is time to. Leia tries really hard not to fall for the ‘scoundrel’ in her life, but admits to herself and to him that she does when it’s too late to do anything about it. In this way she shows that sometimes it is better to be honest than ‘strong.’ It was her strength that kept together a rebellion, but her love (or love for her) that brought it to its ultimate end. Princess Leia enjoys the luxury of a female character that is seen far too little – the ability to kick ass, give directions like a man and wield a weapon while being vulnerable, soft and feminine.
5. Scarlet O’Hara: Gone With the Wind
Jennifer’s #2 pick was Celie Johnson from The Color Purple. Celie was a slave. She was a slave in her head, not necessarily because she was slow or mentally retarded, but it made her learning curve a lot longer than it would have been if she had been as free a thinker as her children were. She was a slave in reality as well, though not to any slave holder–but to her husband–from that enslavement, she never really broke free. Scarlet O’Hara was never a slave to anything but her unrequited love for Ashley. She was smart enough to make dresses from curtains, increase her husbands fortunes, survive a war that devastated her country, and bring Tara back to prosperity. All of this at a time when women were not allowed to own anything, not even their own children. While the movie made her look spoiled and vain, the book made it clear that everything she did was with the single minded determination to save her family from the utter devastation of the Civil War. While her love life may have been as perverse as Celies, she learned from all her mistakes and did her best not to repeat them while remaining a beautiful, respectable, Southern Belle.
Hermoine could probably hold her own against Jennifer’s #11 Aeon from Aeon Flux (which I loved too, btw, but didn’t make this list) if she was allowed to use magic against modern weaponry. Hermoine is smart that way. Hermoine was a character we could relate to more than Aeon, however. She goes through all the awkward stages we understand from preteen know-it-all to classy woman, and makes some of the same mistakes we made. Her one unique characteristic was her ability to remain a friend to a male without going through all the awkwardness that presents (or has been presented to us in movies like: My Best Friends Wedding). Hermoine experiences bullying, romance, danger and everlasting friendship and handles each experience with such aplomb that her friends actively attempt to emulate it. She is an example as much as she is an amalgam of our own lives.
(and as runners up for this position in the same series: Lily Potter, for her sacrifice and the love she seemed to reap from everyone around her. Ginny Weasley, for the very same reasons, and Mrs. Weasley for her sweaters, her sons, her husband and her obvious ability to keep them all in line while kicking arse)
7. Jennifer Spencer: Sudden Impact
For number one, Allegiant’s Jennifer Hollie Bowles #1 pick was The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo’s Lisbeth Salander. Lisbeth is dark, gritty, intelligent and utterly emo, which seems appropriate for a Millenial, but doesn’t necessarily mean she is strong. Her strengths are her intelligence, it isn’t the single minded pursuit of people who have done wrong. In this way she is like Jennifer Spencer (without the tattoo’s, piercings and emo hair) from Sudden Impact (one of the Dirty Harry movies). But unlike Lisbeth, Jennifer does not appear to be as darkly influenced by her experience–since both experiences are necessarily negative. Jennifer is an artist, but not a tattoo artist like Lisbeth (which involves a great deal of pain). Jennifer has used art to heal her wounds, while Lisbeth used hers to create pain. While Lisbeth lets her attackers go free, like a true, new age thinker–allowing them to continue to hurt other people– Jennifer exacts justice swiftly with a surgical precision that only Dirty Harry can really appreciate — all while being able to live a ‘normal’ sort of life. Lisbeth story ends with uncertainty and unrequited love, while Jennifer’s ends with Dirty Harry. You’ll be asking yourself who that girl was that shot all the rapists in Dirty Harry one by one when you forget everything about Lisbeth except she had a dragon tattoo.
8. Tess McGill: Working Girl
Tess is nothing like Jennifer’s #7 pick Diana Guzmand in Girlfight and she would admit it. But Tess knows what she IS smart at and she does all she can to put her talents into that field: Business.
“I have a head for business and a bod for sin. Is there anything wrong with that?”
And Tess proves that her head for business is the equal of any man’s as she climbs the ladder of success the only way she knows how–using all the skills she’s learned as a secretary, a beautiful woman, street smarts and trusting her scrappy little heart.
9. Elizabeth Bennett: Pride and Prejudice
It doesn’t matter which version of this story you like, tv, film, BBC or book – Elizabeth Bennett takes on the world and still fits perfectly in it, unlike Jen Yu, #8 pick, from House of Flying Daggers. While Elizabeth may be considered the inferior of her sister Jane, she uses her strengths-wit, vivacity, natural charm to win over her most hard core detractors. She never picks up a sword, plays the piano “very ill,” and is quite aware that she will probably never be able to marry her male ‘equal’ in the society. She has her own prejudices, which she openly acknowledges, and it’s that same openness that wins the heart of a man who once considered himself above her. Every stranger she meets, even the great Lady Catherine, is almost immediately interested in her opinion, even if they don’t agree with them.
Elizabeth proves that a woman does not need to be the most beautiful woman in the room to be the most attractive woman in the room. And that gives all women the sense that they can earn with wit and wisdom what they can’t with genetic favors.
10. Selene: Underworld series
Like Columbiana (the #10 pick on the Allegiant site), Selene lost her parents/family and becomes a Death Dealer in a sense of never ending revenge and loyalty to a new family. But I have to give Kate Beckinsdale props for her portrayal of Selene. I don’t think I would have liked the character at all if not for her portrayal. Selene doesn’t say much, but when she does, everyone listens. She’s not showy or even vengeful, she’s just horribly efficient and effective at her job. But she’s also observant (if you ignore that it took her several hundred years to realize Viktor betrayed her family). She doesn’t exactly let her heart guide her, but when she finally gives in to love, she is in it wholeheartedly. Selene is not a woman with unbelievable skill and luck at killing people she wishes to exact revenge on like Columbiana. Selene is a vampire with several hundred years of experience, and even that wasn’t enough to help her overcome her nemesis. Each time it took a bit of help from her friends (or lover), making Selene a lot more believable a character in a fantasy series than many characters in a real world setting.
11. Ripley: Aliens
I’m not going to include the other franchise movies in my listing of Ripley from the Alien Series, I really only think the strong character was Ripley from the second movie. The first movie was a horror story and Ripley was the scifi version of the girl that makes it through all the slaughter to tell the story, but movie #2 Ripley had experience, wisdom, compassion and just a touch of vengeance in her heart. She’s the scifi / female version of John McClane from the Die Hard series, but not until movie 2. Ripley in movie #2 is better than Ripley movie #1 because now she can carry a gun AND a little girl at the same time. She also handles heavy equipment as well as a man, or android, whatever the case may be. Plus she still looks pretty good for a woman of her age–she’s about 80 something in the movie– and she doesn’t make fun of Marines, which they always appreciate since it’s so much material to work with.
12. Zoe: Firefly
Mal couldn’t hold his crew, or Serenity itself, together without Zoe. Not only is Zoe cool under pressure, she can even think after her husband experiences the ultimate oneness with the universe. That takes a lot of strength. While able to command, she doesn’t feel it necessary to be in competition with command, unlike Jennifer’s #12 Noibe in the Matrix. Zoe doesn’t question everything, she knows her duty as the first officer, but she does question what she knows is trouble. You really have to see the series to get an appreciation for Zoe. She is one of the most under appreciated characters in the history of science fiction. She looks good in her uniform, looks like she knows how to handle both her men and her weapons. She is like Princess Leia if Leia weren’t a princess and could aim her laser weapons better…
Outstanding Honorable Mention… Buffy: Buffy The Vampire Slayer
If you haven’t seen a Buffy Meme on the internet, then you have some seriously advanced heavy duty filtering on your browser.
The quality of meme’s alone proves Buffy’s strength outmatches (and outlasts) any on the aforementioned list.
ok… enough of that