There is frequent talk on the internet about how no one seems to know what to do with female characters on film and/or on TV – the most recent article being We’re Losing All Our Strong Female Characters to Trinity Syndrome by Tasha Robinson – and although I agree with some of the chatter, I also want to point out that we have made some HUGE strides in this area. Last November, I compiled a list of Strong Cinematic Female Characters, and that list remains my go-to when people bring up this topic. Because this is still an issue, see my comments on How to Train Your Dragon 2, I thought I would compile another list of strong, capable, independent female characters that don’t prop up a male savior. Brand spanking new. Just for you. Some will be from TV; a few will come from film. All of these characters can/could be seen on TV or on film in 2014.
- Lagertha (Katheryn Winnick) on the History Channel’s Vikings – She is beautiful but don’t underestimate this shield maiden’s power. After her husband Ragnar Lothbrok (Travis Fimmel) cheated on her with another woman, Lagertha rejected his polygamous offer, packed up, and left. When her new husband proved drunken and abusive, she got her deadly revenge and even took over his position in the village. Lagertha is brave, intelligent, powerful, and no one’s fool. And she’s masterful on the battlefield. She never shies away from a fight.
- Molly Solverson on FX’s Fargo – The daughter of a retired cop, Molly is, without question, the smartest person in town. When others on the police force were eager to stick a pin in the investigation of several murders, Molly kept on the trail, thinking and rethinking the crimes, always trying to make all of the pieces fit. And even when ridiculed, she kept at it. She never backed down. Fearless and kind, Molly doesn’t hold grudges. Hell, she married the doofus cop that put a bullet into her by accident. And, in the end, Molly was right about “whodunit.”
- Agent Melinda May (Ming-Na) on Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. – Stoic, intelligent, and an amazing fighter – watch her jaw-dropping fight sequence during the season finale – she is just one of several laudable female characters on this action-packed, science geeky show. Runner’s up include Skye (Chloe Bennett, who is a computer genius; and Jemma Simmons (Elizabeth Henstridge), who is a scientific genius. This is one program that gives girls well-rounded role models. Thanks a lot to writers Jed Whedon, Maurissa Tancharoen, and Joss Whedon!
- Brienne of Tarth (Gwendoline Christie) on Game of Thrones – This very tall, very blonde warrior revealed during the season finale that, even in her youth, she wanted to learn to sword fight, but wasn’t allowed because she was a girl. Did she back down? Nope. She persisted, and if you watch her impressive, no-holds-barred fight sequence with the Hound – she bites off his EAR and spits it back at him, we see that she can more than hold her own. Game of Thrones has many impressive, intelligent, and powerful female characters, including Daenerys Targaryen, the “mother of dragons”; Cersei Lannister (Lena Headey); Arya Stark (Maisie Williams); and, one of my favorites Olenna Tyrell (Diana Rigg).
- Claire Underwood (Robin Wright) on Netflix’s House of Cards – We got a hint of Claire’s intelligence during season 1 of this addictive series; season 2 really demonstrates how well matched she is, in the diabolical planning department, to her husband, the ladder climbing Senator Francis Underwood (Kevin Spacey). She is also cold as ice.
- Red (Kate Mulgrew) on Netflix’s Orange is the New Black – You could easily single out a handful of female characters from this series, but Red, the Russian “cook,” is my particular favorite. She’s ballsy, resourceful, and commanding. No-nonsense. She’s the main reason I tune in.
- Artemisia (Eva Green) in 300: Rise of an Empire – A powerhouse military leader who proves a formidable foe. She’s a great warrior, incredibly intelligent, unwavering in her commitment to a cause … this character, and Green’s performance, impressed me to no end. It’s rare to see a female character like this. She’s very feminine but plays as hard, if not harder, than the boys. A runner up performance by Green is Vanessa Ives, a deeply tormented clairvoyant in Showtime’s Penny Dreadful. I have a strong feeling that Green will pull a hat trick with her performance in Sin City: A Dame to Kill For. If Green is playing the character, it will always be a fascinating one.
- Maleficent (Angelina Jolie) in Maleficent – She is already one of Disney’s most interesting animated characters; in Jolie’s hands, she’s equally mesmerizing. The film, which I still need to review, promises you the “real” story behind the fable. And it’s one about a trusting “fairy” who, after being forsaken by the man she loved, becomes hard and vengeful. But that’s only part of the story. Maleficent isn’t just “nasty” and “evil,” there’s much more to her. If you loved Frozen, you will have similar feelings for this film.
- Mystique (Jennifer Lawrence) in X-Men: Days of Future Past – In the previous X-Men films, Mystique, the blue, shape-shifter with the fiery hair, was athletic, probably sexy, and usually silent. When Lawrence took over the role, and we were given her backstory, she became infinitely more relatable. In this latest installment, she isn’t a confused, quasi-love sick girl; she’s a badass on a mission. I don’t know about you, but I prefer seeing her beating people up and trying to prevent the abuse of mutants. I wouldn’t say no to a Mystique stand-alone film.
- Black Widow (Scarlet Johansson) in Captain America: The Winter Soldier – We got a hint of what Black Widow could do in Iron Man 2, and then got an even bigger taste in The Avengers. Although I was apprehensive about her character “tagging along,” which she doesn’t, in Captain America: The Winter Soldier, her presence helps make this the great film that it is. Black Widow works in the greys, if you get my meaning; ethics aren’t a big concern for her. But because she isn’t overly encumbered by ethics, she gets the job done. No matter what. She is very smart, very kickass … she’s sassy … just a great character – female or not. So when do we get that stand-alone Black Widow film, Marvel?
Looking ahead, it seems that there may be even more strong females to come. Just a few who will be arriving on TV and in the cinema are: Dr. Nora Martinez (Mia Maestro) in FX’s The Strain; Sonya Cross (Diane Kruger) in FX’s The Bridge; Sarah Linden (Mireille Enos) in Netflix’s The Killing; Gamora (Zoe Saldana) in Guardians of the Galaxy; Lucy (Scarlet Johansson) in Lucy; Luna (Ronda Rousey) in Expendables 3; Tauriel (Evangeline Lilly) in The Hobbit: The Battle of Five Armies; and Katniss Everdeen (Jennifer Lawrence) in The Hunger Games: Mockingjay: Part I.