Many of us here at GWC are women. I would also say many of us like sci-fi not only because it’s cool as hell, but because many times growing up, sci-fi was the only place we saw strong, capable women we could look up to. It’s not always easy being a fan of a genre that the greater world sees as dominated not only by males, but by teen-aged males. Let me assure you, we women are here and we love every minute of it.
My journey as a female fan started most likely in 1977, when a little film came out. Perhaps you’ve heard of Star Wars? Princess Leia was a revelation. She was a leader in her own right. She also did not play the damsel in distress role as we had typically seen it before. She helped the guys as much as they helped her. She could shoot guns! She stood up to the villain without cowering in fear.
Next is Jaime Sommers in The Bionic Woman. I didn’t think about her being a cyborg at the time. I just knew she kicked butt and took names. She was a spy helping to protect the country. She ran like the wind, crushed things without thinking about it and could hear a whisper from down the street! Who didn’t run around as a kid making the bionic's noises?
Next, Diana Prince in Wonder Woman. Do I really need to say more? She wasn’t the one calling for the rescue in a bad situation. She WAS the rescue. As a little girl I ran around constantly twirling around, turning into Wonder Woman. I had my rope of truth and deflected bullets with my bracelets every day. I can’t tell you how badly I wanted an invisible plane. (Who wouldn’t?)
Buck Rogers had Wilma Deering. She was yet another completely capable woman. Not only was she in the command structure, she was a pilot. She went out every week in her ship, shooting down bad guys. She got a cool laser gun and she was always in charge of the mission.
When Star Trek: The Next Generation came out I was hooked. Tasha Yar, a woman, was Chief of Security! Dr. Beverly Crusher, the ship's chief medical officer, was a woman. Counselor Deanna Troi was not only on the bridge, but part of the command crew. Although Tasha wasn't on the show after the first season, all three women were not afraid to voice their opinions, even to the gruff Lt. Worf. Captain Picard felt their input was valuable and applied their observations to his final decisions. Counselor Troi and Dr. Crusher even bossed Picard around at times, and he listened.
Then I saw Alien. That movie scared the bejeezus out of me, but it starred Ellen Ripley. She was and is simply amazing. When I saw Aliens, I not only admired Ripley; I worshiped her. She wasn’t a hero out of the box. She was just a woman doing a job. Then the Alien showed up. Ripley knew the regs: she was scared out of her mind, but she held it together to survive. She didn’t fall apart and let someone else take over like we often see in female (even strong female) characters. She rescued herself.
I saw Terminator 2 long before I saw the original Terminator. Sarah Connor in T2 was intense, sure of herself and knew what she had to do. She didn't feel the need to be "nice,” a quality often expected in women. She not only got to shoot guns, she got to shoot big guns. She went out and protected her family the best way she knew how. For me as a 21-year-old it was inspiring to see.
You can see the beginnings of these women with characters like Star Trek’s Uhura and The Avengers’ Emma Peel. And we continue to see the tradition all of these women brought us. You can see it in characters like Babylon 5’s Commander Ivanova and Buffy the Vampire Slayer to Stargate SG1's Samantha Carter and Battlestar Galactica’s Starbuck. We here at GWC salute all of these women and the writers who gave them to us. May they continue to inspire young girls -- and boys -- for many years to come.
What a thoughtful, inspiring post! I loved all of the characters you mentioned, and especially found them fascinating because “girls aren’t (weren’t?) supposed to be smart because boys won’t like them” was still a very prevelent cultural norm in the 70s/80s/90s. (Is it still something young women get told?) I especially liked the fact all of the women you mentioned were SMART — and it was okay. They were accepted for what they were – smart, assertive, and capable. The one thing I noticed was that only two of them — Dr. Crusher and Sarah Connor — were parents; this is something I hope continues to change with characters like “Dr. Allison Blake” not only having an autistic son, but being pregnant while running a top scientific facility AND being a respected scientist in her own right. Smart women can still be nuturing parents — now, can we see them also having “good relationships” or is that too much to ask, because it doesn’t create enough interpersonal romantic tension? LOL! Thanks for a very insiteful, thought provoking post! 🙂
Couldn’t have said it better myself. 😀
Aset, love it!
Part of why I loved reading fantasy and science fiction series as a kid was that it was one of the few places (once I outgrew Judy Bloom) that I could find women characters DOING stuff rather than as empty-headed vessels for whatever the male characters wanted them to be. Though this isn’t to say that there aren’t still a number of producers and products that have… issues… with the portrayal of individuals that don’t share their identity categories.
I wonder, and knowing that there are lots of GWCer parents out there… what about the younger generation? I was a child of the ’80s and ’90s… what about the kids of the later ’90s and ’00s? (going along with Ida Briggs’s thoughts)
Agree with what you mentioned in your article. I would add two other characters not mentioned: Xena and Gabrielle from Xena: Warrior Princess Both were strong and strong and independent.
Great job, Aset!!
I grew up loving all of the babes you mentioned. I use that term in no way derogatory. Because of these amazing female characters I grew up enamored by strong, intelligent, competent women. A babe is a total package, not just eye-candy.
I know it’s not Scifi, but I would also add Hermione Granger as a strong female character for the recent generation. I know once my daughter starts reading the Harry Potter series she’ll be non-stop talking about Hermione.
Thanks for the feedback! I had so many just floating around in my head I couldn’t remember them all & frankly I would probably stil be writing. Kep bringing up thos wmen you admired & love to watch!
Aset, I too really enjoyed this post. It’s kind of funny that as a kid, I did like female sci-fi role models, but often imagined myself as a male character since they were the ones who usually seemed to have the cool jobs, missions, clothes, and were the heroes. I didn’t want to be male; I just wanted to be like *that* – cool and knowledgeable and tough and smart. I think a lot of women who used to be tomboys can relate.
Guinan from ST: TNG is another character I always admired growing up. Whoopi Goldberg played her with such calm wisdom, she went beyond some of the common stereotypes of the time. (Although Beverly Crusher was always my favorite female member of the Next Gen crew.) I never did like Troi as a kid because I thought she seemed weak and I could sense my mom’s annoyance at Troi’s catsuits. As an adult I appreciate her character more but she’s still my least favorite of all the Trek female crew members.
What about Kira Nerys (Nana Visitor) and Jadzia Dax (Terry Farrell) from DS9? Both were pretty tough and cool women. Both were extremely attractive, but I suppose you have to be to even be in the show, even as an extra. (At least women have to be, I think men have a broader standard for accepted levels of attractiveness in media, but that’s another story.) But what was really important is that they were real, complex, flawed characters who were actors in their lives rather than just being acted upon. Good stuff.
I agree with Audra, Major Kira and Lt. Commander Jadzia Dax were wonderful characters, complex and charismatic