During the past twenty years or so, the entertainment industry has seen more and more incredible women take over the screen and viewers’ hearts. These women have led armies, saved lives, and fought off mythical monsters in a mission to save the planet. Sure, there have been plenty of men who have done this and more, but these kick-ass women have broken stereotypes and showed that women too have always had the power to take the lead. In this article, I will introduce only a handful of these influential and strong-minded ladies, but they are the ones that have particularly shaped me into the person I am today through their impressive on-screen presence.
OK, so you might be thinking how could Angelina Jolie’s Lara Croft influence me? Wasn’t she just made for guys to drool over and wear incredibly tight outfits? Well, that’s not the Tomb Raider I’m talking about, but what’s wrong with Angelina anyway? She owns it. I’m talking about the Lara Croft I’ve grown up with on PlayStation and Xbox. Over the years, the producers of the game listened to fans voices more and more, and realised the importance of their female game-playing audience. They began to change her body shape from Tomb Raider Legend (TR7) to the most recent game, The Rise of the Tomb Raider. Obviously, there is nothing wrong at all with a huge-busted adventurer, but their change considered the younger and easily influenced teenage girls who play and grow up with the games. It also highlighted their decision to create a mutual and empathetic character. Lara Croft’s wit and core never changed, but just the fact that they listened made me respect the game and the creators even more. What’s more, from fighting mythical Nordic beasts and krakens in Underworld to chilling undead armies in The Rise of the Tomb Raider, Lara Croft is ready to face any enemy to retrieve historical artefacts and prevent their misuse from enemy organisations; in doing so, she saves the world. What’s uncool about that?
Kristen Bell’s Nancy Drew like character takes centre stage in this exciting mid-2000s drama. Veronica Mars is a high-school student who doubles as a teen detective to support her father’s agency. She manages to juggle schoolwork and mysterious cases, and uses her charm and wit to overcome the challenges of both. Faced with the murder of her best friend (Amanda Seyfried) a year previously (not a spoiler, this is the plot!), Veronica Mars was forced to change and follow the path of an undercover investigator with her estranged father, with the goal of finding her best friend’s true killer. Having grown up with this TV series, I felt an enormous amount of respect and wonder at her fast-thinking and forward approach. With an intellect unequal to any teenager I ever encountered at school, she manages to solve cases involving domestic abuse and murder and never lets anything faze her. As if that wasn’t cool enough already, fans missed her so much that they made an online petition to get her back in a film of the same name in 2014.
Finally! The newest Star Wars trilogy is centred on a strong female lead, Rey, played by Daisy Ridley. Of course, the previous trilogies have had Princess Leia (Carrie Fisher) and Padme (Natalie Portman), both incredibly resilient female characters, however, they always accompanied the men, Luke Skywalker in the original trilogy and Anakin in the prequels. This time, J.J. Abrams made her the protagonist and a bad-ass budding Jedi. Rey’s character, alone on Jakku – a desert planet prone to scavengers and quick sand – was left to fend for herself when her parents left her at an early age. Having endured the difficulties of life alone early on, she was forced to grow up fast with unwavering strength. She can fly the Millennium Falcon and knows how to fix it faster than even Han Solo (Harrison Ford); she never lets a man take the lead. When Finn grabs her hand as they flee from the enemy, she yells repeatedly “let go of my hand!”, and leads the way to their escape. It’s exciting to think of how her character will develop over the next two films. What kind of Jedi will she become under the guidance of Luke Skywalker? I’m eager to see!
“Power. Grace. Wisdom. Wonder”. Wonder Woman’s (Gal Gadot) strong and straight posture in battle illustrate her resolve and astonishing power. Having first appeared on our screens as Wonder Woman in Batman vs Superman in 2016, her popularity soared sky high and she landed her own film this summer, Wonder Woman. In it, we learn more about her character, a strong Amazonian warrior who leaves her paradise home to fight a menacing evil in an unknown world. As an Amazonian, she has an abundance of gifts and powers, and they’re not just physical strength! She can speak every single language on Earth and her compassion for others is without equal (not even Superman managed to avoid devastating cities and killing hundreds of innocents in his path to ‘justice’). Her goals are pure and her desire to help is as genuine as could possibly be. Even when this innocence gets her into tricky situations she soon recovers and saves the day. The actress, Gal Gadot, herself is equally as incredible. She’s a martial artist, won the Miss Israel title, and served in the IDF (Israel Defence Forces) for two years!
These women are all amazing, not just the characters but the actors themselves. If I could write about all of them, I would. Here are some honourable mentions, because I think everyone needs to know about them: Bong-Soon in Strong Girl Bong-soon, Brooke Davis in One Tree Hill, Betty in Ugly Betty, Rukia Kuchiki in Bleach, Eleanor Shellstrop in The Good Place, Hermione in Harry Potter, Ellie in The Last of Us, Daenerys Targaryan in Game of Thrones… the list is endless. Which strong female characters have inspired you?