with the bold text in the example below:

Sunday, April 22, 2012

On strong (and fascinating) female characters

To be completed, suggestions welcome, in the comment box!

Jackie Brown (Pam Grier, Jackie Brown, 1997)
A woman in a man's world, having done some prison, ready to get her things together with one last trick. Goal oriented despite the pressure and perhaps some emotions towards the good guy of the story. And let's face it, Pam Grier couldn't be more charming, in an edgy sort of way.
Jackie Brown (Pam Grier, Jackie Brown by Quentin Tarantino, 1997)

Trinity (Carrie Ann Moss, The Matrix, 1999)
She is the mysterious woman. Androgynous, emotionless, efficient, survivor with ethics. Her costumes makes her almost dominatrix, but she is not, it's the esthetic of the movie and it suits her well. She handles big guns, she is nearly unbeatable, and still, once you see the her weakness, you cannot help falling in love with her.
Trinity (Carrie Ann Moss, The Matrix by the brother Wachowski, 1999)

Radia (Souad Amidou, Le Plus Beau Métier du Monde, 1995)
Teacher in a school that looks more like a gang headquarters, holding her head up, beautiful of course that way, trying to change the mind of the little few that may get out of the ghetto and have a better future. But she doesn't do it with authority, on the contrary, she does it with her generosity and loving heart. Still, she's got the respect, even of the toughest ones.
Radia (Souad Amidou, Le Plus Beau Métier du Monde by Gérard Lauzier, 1995)

Aeryn Sun (Claudia Black, Farscape, 1999-2003)
The conditioned woman, trained to be a pilot, observe order, teamwork, discipline, looking forward to her next assignment as a pilot as a main goal in her life. And then everything collapses. It takes a very long time for her to change her behavior while all her life has already shifted. And little by little, her good values takes another dimension such as teamwork, as she feels she need to takes decisions for herself, other features of her personality are to be rethought as the order she used to feel she was belonging to is now making her an outlaw. And finally, relationships that were forbidden to her becomes allowed, which gives her an internal struggle on what are the priorities of life. I forgot to mention her deep voice and amazing nose, that both belong to the amazing Claudia Black.
Aeryn Sun (Claudia Black, Farscape by Rockne S. O'Bannon, 1999-2003)

Isabel Lahiri (Catherine Zeta-Jones, Ocean's twelve, 2004)
She's a cop, surrounded by outlaws loves of her life, too close to be ignored, to reachable not to arrest them, so they flee. She is smart and never gives up her prey, ready to distort the system to her own advantage so she can prove she is right. Stubborn and cute. She ends up outlaw and surrounded by her loves, for good. That's a happy ending.
Isabel Lahiri (Catherine Zeta-Jones, Ocean's twelve by Steven Soderbergh, 2004)

Sera (Elizabeth Shue, Leaving Las Vegas, 1995)
A prostitute. You would start by thinking no way this is a strong woman, not something you want to promote feminism with. Nevertheless, she is one of the most complex role I have seen, with a powerful story that is all about humanity. It is about helping the other, not judging, be there no matter what the other think of you, be ready to embrace their choices, and leading your life into another direction, changing. She is beautifully sad, devoted, a unique soul that touched a very large audience, I believe.
Sera (Elizabeth Shue, Leaving Las Vegas by Mike Figgis, 1995)

Sylvia Weld (Lena Headey, The man with rain in his shoes, 1998)
If you were given a second chance, would you reconsider your choices. Would you let your life be embraced the way the other want. It was an interesting charming role of a woman that lives through the second chance of her boyfriend having cheated on him, this time not knowing and letting him go anyway, because it is life, and sometimes you have another journey to make.
Sylvia Weld (Lena Headey, The man with rain in his shoes by María Ripoll, 1998)

Number Six (Tricia Helfer, Battlestar Galactica, 2004-2009)
The sexiest robot ever invented. So far. And even with that, she managed to become a strong symbol of femininity and humanity. I think it is hard to fall for this one as long as she is considered the sexiest robot ever. Her character evolves into a complex role, actually complex roles, showing different facets of the same character, becoming more and more human, sensitive, able to change humanity and create an internal conflict in the mind of the other robots. That's relevant!
Number Six (Tricia Helfer, Battlestar Galactica by Glen A. Larson, 2004-2009)

Jenny Lerner (Téa Leoni, Deep Impact, 1998)
I don't know why I chose her, I believe she marked me when I was 16, watching Deep Impact. She was the perfect successful journalist with a father issue, ready to be saved as part of the most relevant human beings on Earth, going on a journey to emotions while the rest of the world is trying to survive. She chooses to make peace with herself instead of making sure she'll live longer, and join her father on the sea side where the impact will be destructive. Not suicidal, just prioritizing the rightest journey she chooses for herself.
Jenny Lerner (Téa Leoni, Deep Impact by Mimi Leder, 1998)

Bette Porter (Jennifer Beals, The L Word, 2004-2009)
Perfect successful lesbian with a wife, a family, friends, director of an art center with an amazing taste, beautiful and most of all, do not look like the stereotype of a lesbian. That is relevant, and I believe besides the fact that she is a strong and fascinating female character, it actually changed the views of our society on what to expect a lesbian should be, how she should behave, how she would look like.
Bette Porter (Jennifer Beals, The L Word by Ilene Chaiken, 2004-2009)

Kathryn Railly (Madeleine Stowe, Twelve Monkeys, 1995)
Totally subjective, I believe I fell in love with Madeleine Stowe in that movie. I found her beautiful, perhaps in a movie where everything is ugly, depressing, unending, cold. She was the light.
Kathryn Railly (Madeleine Stowe, Twelve Monkeys by Terry Gilliam, 1995)

Lisbeth Salander (Noomi Rapace, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, 2009)
Not the American version, I insist. In this version, she gives a new look to the hero, and to the woman not entering any gender. She is someone who makes her own choices, creates her own relationships regardless of what the other believe in, think. She looks terrible, in a way, a sensual in another, intriguing. She chooses to like the man of the story, but this is not a traditional relationship she is looking for, more like a partnership that doesn't have beginning or end, it is not a commitment. Besides, she is a genius, a geek, something that still in our culture is not appealing, there she changes the rules of the game. Trinity tried it, Lisbeth Salander did it.
Lisbeth Salander (Noomi Rapace, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo by Niels Arden Oplev, 2009)

Léa (Catherine Deneuve, Belle Maman, 1999)
Ok, departing point, Catherine Deneuve is a strong and fascinating woman. I picked that movie, I could have chose many others. But Lea is the divorced independent beautiful and intensively charming middle age woman. She couldn't be more beautiful than at that point of her life. And the projection that all the other characters have of her, the way they behave around her make her even more so. She is a woman who is not afraid of aging (well maybe a little, that only makes her even more cute), that reshape all the conceptions of beauty associated to youth, a great lesson.
Léa (Catherine Deneuve, Belle Maman by Gabriel Aghion, 1999)

Pierrette (Fanny Ardant, 8 Women, 2002)
Ok, second departing point, Fanny Ardant is a strong and fascinating woman. Mysterious too, dramatic. I picked that movie, I could have chose many others. I also could have chosen to have listed Catherine Deneuve in this movie, specially since they both fight at some point, breaking all the conceptions you could have of both. Pierrette is not playing by the rules, making her an outsider, but at the same time, she is more aware of what is indeed politically incorrect and make a lot of the character loose the face. Entertaining!
Pierrette (Fanny Ardant, 8 Women by François Ozon, 2002)

Princess Leia Organa (Carrie Fisher, Star Wars Trilogy, 1977-1983)
She is a princess, but not the kind who watch their lives passing in front of their eyes. She is a strong woman, stubborn, alter ego of Aeryn Sun in a way, a warrior. She gives a hard time to men in general, which is very satisfying as a woman to watch. She is cute at times and a real pain in the neck too, a feminist after all.
Princess Leia Organa (Carrie Fisher, Star Wars Trilogy, 1977-1983)

Yu Shu Lien (Michelle Yeoh, Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, 2000)
Michelle Yeoh manages to be the righteous, the devoted, the strong, all that without allowing herself to love, when you can see it is showing from every pores of her skin. I found it so beautiful and tragic, intense, everything that happens revolves around the undone. She is the key character of the film. She reminds me so much of Mrs Dashwood, very respectful of the rules of her time, very talented and generous, and ready to give up a lot for honor. Of course, she distinguishes herself from Mrs Dashwood in that she is from Ancient China, a master warrior which is unusual for a woman of her time, and an extraordinary athlete (you gotta see how in shape she is!). I guess I fell for the devotion she has for her partner, the love he gives her back, and how awkward they are together trying to talk about their love.
Yu Shu Lien (Michelle Yeoh, Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon by Ang Lee, 2000)

Dr. Elizabeth 'Beth' Halperin (Sharon Stone, Sphere, 1998)
I think Sharon Stone around that time changed the range of her roles for a more mature kind of women, with wiser characters. She in this movie cut her hair "Jean Seberg" style, boyish, she is a doctor surrounded by men in a confined environment (all amazing actors by the way), and she is not loosing the face. She is a strong serious scientific that manage to hide the fact that she is a beautiful woman, and still be the center of the attention.
Dr. Elizabeth 'Beth' Halperin (Sharon Stone, Sphere by Barry Levinson, 1998)

Jordan O'Neill (Demi Moore, G.I. Jane, 1997)
That is for the statement. Demi Moore is a soldier in a man's world, the army. And she is not going to let her femininity be on the way. No special treatment, proving one more time that a woman can be equal to a man (or better, but I am not a feminist), having one goal and pursuing it. And it is tough.
Jordan O'Neill (Demi Moore, G.I. Jane by Ridley Scott, 1997)

Betty Rizzo (Stockard Channing, Grease, 1978)
Funny how everyone fell for the little cute blond Sandy. I found Betty much more interesting, deep. First she is a woman of style, with a great sense of fashion (even till today) and a sense of leadership. Second, she is probably more aware and mature than any other characters, letting her girls be the entertainment. The themes that we observe through her character's journey are themes that are still in question today, while it should long be a women right, abortion. That was a statement at the time.

Betty Rizzo (Stockard Channing, Grease by Randal Kleiser, 1978)


  1. A couple suggestions :
    * Sarah Connor - both versions (Linda Hamilton in Terminator & T2, Lena Headey in Terminator : the Sarah Connor Chronicles)
    * Cameron (Summer Glau, in T:SCC)
    * Not sure whether she fits here considering her age, Arya Stark (Maisie Williams, in Game of Thrones) grows stronger the more horrors she's exposed to...
    * A little less serious (or not...), Gwen Cooper (Eve Myles in Torchwood)

    1. Hehe, Sarah Connor is on my second part of the list: http://cinemajustforfun.blogspot.com/2012/05/on-strong-and-fascinating-female.html but it is true, Lena Headey is quite convincing as well.
      I would have also put Cercei Lannister in a way (Lina Headey again!) but Arya Stark is a good choice indeed. Do not know Torchwood, will look into it! Thank you for your feedback!