heroine and role model

Felicity Smoak has the ability to represent and inspire the millions of women and girls who tune into CW’s “Arrow” and the ability to push others to accept different representations of strength as well as different representations of women. Felicity Smoak is a funny, socially awkward genius, a romantic interest, an invaluable member of a superhero team, a leader of a multi-billion dollar company and a strong role model for the audience and for other media texts.
Coming of age-shaping heroes

Ahsoka Tano

Ahsoka grew up with us, or more precisely, we could witness her becoming more mature when we did, too. She had to take responsibility, when she wasn’t ready. She had to become the teacher, when she was still learning. She had to be strong, when her strength was taken. She protected, when she herself was in danger. She had to be on her own, when she realized the time had come. 

She faced evil, when she still sensed light.

♈  As hot-tempered as an Aries. 

♉  As undeceivable as a Taurus. 

♊  As waggish as a Gemini.

♋  As inscrutable as a Cancer.

♌  As brave as a Leo.

♍  As wise as a Virgo.

♎  As devoted as a Libra.

♏  As seeing through as a Scorpio.

♐  As genuine as a Sagittarius.

♑  As dutiful as a Capricorn.

♒  As pertinacious as an Aquarius.

♓  As deep as a Pisces.

Nani

I think Nani from Lilo and Stitch is a very important Disney heroine.  She was always cool, but I appreciate her much more now than I ever did as a child.  Part of that is that I didn’t fully understand the story when I was younger.  A lot is probably being her age now and having siblings significantly younger than me.  She’s a very admirable character, and I’m excited to write about her.

Nani is a 19 year old girl whose parents recently died in a car crash.  Aside from the obvious tragedy of losing her loved ones, this leaves Nani all on her own to care for her much younger sister, Lilo.  Who knows what Nani’s life plan was before the death of her parents.  Maybe she was going to go to college or travel.  Whatever it was she had to completely put it on hold to take care of her sister.  She essentially had to become a mom overnight.  We see that Nani has to brush all other aspects of her life aside so she can make Lilo her first priority.

It’s a hard job but Nani does the best she can.  She is remarkably hardworking, patient, and responsible.  There are plenty of hardworking princesses (Tiana and Cinderella come to mind) but Nani stands out to me.  Lilo is an unusual girl and taking care of her is incredibly demanding.  Nani does everything in her power but still struggles to keep a full time job and properly care for Lilo.  Nani constantly lives under threat that Lilo will be taken from her and put into foster care.  

There is something striking about the fact that Nani does everything she can and it still isn’t enough.  It’s very realistic.  It may seem a little backwards, but somehow that is encouraging.  Sometimes terrible things happen to you and you just can’t fix it.  That does not mean there is something wrong with you.  Nani’s misfortune does not reflect negatively on her character.  I think it’s important that people understand that.

Nani really is incredibly good with Lilo.  She understands her in a way that nobody else can.  She respects Lilo’s eccentricities and makes sure that she doesn’t feel abnormal.  Nani let Lilo pick the strangest dog possible and didn’t fight her on it.  She let her name him Stitch and hushed the lady who tried to tell Lilo that wasn’t a real name.  There are countless more instances like that throughout the whole movie.  Nani never makes Lilo feel like her ideas are stupid or her decisions are invalid. 

Every now and then I’ll discuss a character’s physical appearance if I think it’s significant in some way.  I have to take a second to talk about Nani’s looks.  She looks very different from other princesses/heroines.  Some of that is because she’s Hawaiian and Disney’s animation styles got very stylized for a few years there (think about how different Atlantis, Hercules, and Lilo and Stitch look.)  But it goes beyond that.  Nani is not super skinny like every other Disney heroine.  Don’t get me wrong, she isn’t fat at all.  But she does not have what people nowadays consider a “perfect” body and I LOVE it.  Nani is relatively flat-chested with wide hips, large thighs, and that unmistakable tummy pooch.  And she’s really beautiful.  Is she insecure about her non-supermodel body? NO.  She goes around in crop tops and short shorts and she absolutely rocks it.  There is nothing wrong with the way she looks.  So why do real girls that look like that feel like they need to change?  I love that Disney made a character with that body type.

Clearly, I think Nani is a really important character in so many ways.  I’m so happy that she’s one of Disney’s heroines.  She was really a character worth writing.

Why Iris West matters to me

I’ve decided to post one of these every week that The Flash airs, in an attempt to combat the hate this wonderful character gets on a daily basis and to offer a glimmer of hope to the fans personally affected by the negativity spewed by the haters.
While Iris is a full-fledged journalist, I am still a work in progress, having had to discontinue my studies. But just like Iris started out as a barista with an interest in journalism, so have I. I was working in an amusement park and looking for a change in direction in life, since my previous field of study (English and Norwegian language and literature) wouldn’t bring me the satisfaction I sought. I also wanted to do something meaningful with my life, while at the same time enjoy the work I do. And while the idea to pursue journalism came about five years ago after watching another superhero show (Smallvile), I can relate just as much now to Iris, as I did at the time to Lois.
I love how Iris is so dedicated to uncovering the truth, and while I don’t think I’ll ever work in the field of investigative journalism (I’m more inclined towards radio and online reporting), seeing her in action has really determined me to strive to finish my studies and, like her, make a difference.
Another thing about Iris that warms my heart is how much she wants to help others. Whether that involves personally saving their lives or uncovering the truth to see justice served, that is something I wanted to do ever since I was very young. I sometimes wish I had grown up watching this show, because Iris would definitely have been my role model, with her desire to help, her integrity and dignity. She would have inspired me to be stronger in my teenage years.
While I, hopefully, don’t have a death sentence hanging over me anytime soon, I do relate to Iris’ fear of not leaving a mark on the world after death. That is perhaps one of my greatest fears, just like it seems to be one of hers. While I do have a beautiful and loving family, I would want to be remembered by more than merely my family and friends, just like Iris. Which brings me to a very important point: Iris West needs to be saved! She is important not only as an individual character, Barry’s girlfriend and a heroine in her own right, but as a role model to viewers of all ages. Her death would be a slap in the face to many who recognise themselves and their own struggles in the ones Iris is facing at this point in time.
To conclude, Iris West matters to me because her story has emboldened me to follow my dreams, to try to make a difference. She has inspired me to persevere no matter the odds. She is the reason I joined fandom on Tumblr and Twitter, and the reason I try to do my best to speak out against the bigotry directed at her character and fans.
To all those who see themselves in Iris West, who have to fight the same odds and face the same struggles: I love you and support you! You matter! Iris West matters!
Love,
The Linguist

9

I never considered myself a great history student. I wasn’t bad at it—my grades were okay enough and I even enjoyed the lectures most of the time, but it wasn’t really my thing. I could tell because the finer details of what we’d learned always fled my brain about a week after taking the appropriate test. Sometimes I fell asleep in class. I could never keep track of the Presidents’ years in office. It wasn’t a big deal, I decided. History just wasn’t my best subject. 

I realized in 2013 that I have always absolutely loved history. I realized this while going through my childhood bookcase, as I sifted through the drifts of Beverly Cleary and Roald Dahl. I noticed that I was sitting among dozens and dozens of Dear America books, and I remembered explaining to my mom that Anetka was sent to the US to marry this guy, but he was way older than her and he died and she had to take care of his kids! And this one’s Hattie, one of her friends died on the trail because he ate hemlock. And this one’s Clotee, and this one’s Maria and on and on and on because it was just! So! Interesting! All these things that had happened to these girls had actually happened in real life. Sometimes even to girls like me, whose families had just immigrated, or who liked to read, or who lived near Virginia!Victory gardens! Votes for women! The underground railroad! Holy shit, history: it’s like worldbuilding that actually happened! That was how I felt reading those books—but not how I often felt about history as it was taught in class.

I used what I learned from Dear America books on everything from my fourth grade Oregon Trail project to my AP US History test. I’ve handed them down to my youngest sister, who just turned 12—A Coal Miner’s Bride is her favorite. And I’ve revisited them myself, to discover that they were just as good as I remember. These books gave emotion and identity to events I’d often never heard of: the Lattimer Massacre, the Long Walk of the Navajo, the Great Migration. And these heroines were genuine individuals, not the generic Good Role Models for Girls I was used to. I struggle to find their like in modern adult media—where might I find a heroine like Nellie Lee Love, rebelling against colorism and the world’s indignation at a black girl who loves math? Or Remember Patience Whipple, chasing the boys who tried to peek up her skirt amidst illness and fear on the Mayflower ? Or Anetka Kaminska, 14 and suddenly a widowed mother of three?

It took me years to recognize my own interest in history because so little of it, as it is taught, involves women. Oh sure, we have a scattering of Susan B. Anthonys and Harriet Tubmans, but they’re rare enough that we can recall the handful of them we learned by name—and moreover, we sure as hell aren’t learning about struggling prairie teachers in the 1870s or teenage Jewish girls on the Lower East Side. Maybe we get The House on Mango Street squeezed into the curriculum between Johnny Tremain, All Quiet on the Western Front, and Great Expectations, but women’s stories never threaten to to achieve true parity (though god knows the boys in class will moan endlessly about Dumb Books Full of Girl Emotions anyway). So thank god for the Dear America series, and all books like them (what up, American Girl), for lending me a hand that wasn’t afraid to be in a dress. Today, I read a lot of history and am even engaging in my own independent research—but I wouldn’t be here today if it wasn’t for stories like Nellie’s and Remember’s and Anetka’s. I’d have gone on thinking history wasn’t my thing. Because nobody bothered to let me know how much I—a mixed race, bookish, lonely little American girl—had a stake in it.

Captain Amelia

Sadly, because Treasure Planet doesn’t get near enough credit, nobody remembers Captain Amelia.  But she’s an awesome heroine!  She’s voiced by the lovely Emma Thompson, so naturally I’m a fan, and she is such a cool character all around.

Here’s something I find so interesting.  In Treasure Island, which this movie is based on, the captain was a man.  Of course.  That fits the time period and social constructs.  But Disney decided to gender-bend it and changed this character to a woman.  There would have been almost no female presence in this movie without Captain Amelia so I’m so glad they made that choice.  I really appreciate that because women are so underrepresented in film.  She turned out wonderful.

And I love that they didn’t just throw her in to be a token love interest.  Although she does end up with Doppler, that part of the plot is barely touched on.  She only warms up to him as she sees how smart and capable he is on the journey.  He tends to her wounds after their shipwreck and sweet stuff like that.  They actually begin their relationship and get married sometime after the journey to find Treasure Planet is done.  It’s not at all the point of her character.

Amelia is a marvelous role model for young women.  She’s a commander.  She is actually the highest authority figure in the film.  She is said to be the finest captain “in this or any other galaxy.”  In addition to being kind (which I think is trait number one for any role model), Captain Amelia is confident, smart, brave, loyal, authoritative, and independent.  She’s very strong and athletic, not at all a damsel in distress.  Amelia has no tolerance for rudeness or incompetence.  She’s wonderfully quick-witted, has a nice ironic sense of humor, and is delightfully quotable.  She’s pretty amazing all in all.

It’s such a shame this film doesn’t get more attention, because Captain Amelia is so worth remembering.

The lights went down, and just before the credits rolled, a woman yelled out, “I’ve been waiting my whole life for this!”  And that set the tone for the movie right away.

There’s no discounting the amount of people who have been wanting a Wonder Woman movie their entire life. And no discounting that their gender is female.  Men have had this experience many, many times.  They go into a movie, and they see a male, and he puts on a suit and he’s doing heroic things, and they’re the costumes we know from the comics, and they’re thrilled and they’re satisfied.  Every movie their entire life, they can look at the main character, or one of the main characters, and see themselves.  You don’t have to do that extra work to find yourself in a movie. The movies are made, specifically, for you.

And of course there have been movies made before with strong female role models and strong female heroines – Princess Leia, Gamora from Guardians of the Galaxy.  But, there is only a handful of movies that exist in this action pulp genre that are formed around a female character, around which the narrative revolves, around which the world bends.  You can count them on one hand.

There’s so many fighty sequences in this movie where she’ll burst through the door and kick the ass of like 10 people.  Which, you know, to some people, it’s like, oh cool, Wonder Woman is doing that.  But for a large segment of the audience, it’s a much, much bigger deal.  It’s somebody looking up, and, as the lady said, “I’ve waited my whole life for this.”

The predominance of romance in women’s literature is stunningly unrealistic. The assumption that most heroines would necessarily focus that much attention on their love lives is ridiculous, particularly in the modern world. Real women, even if they aren’t queens, have real problems: jobs to do; bills to pay; families to raise; domestic and sexual violence to worry about; sexism to combat; and sometimes racism, homophobia, and other forms of bigotry as well. When the average adult heroine pushes these real problems aside in favor of worrying about how to live happily ever after with her prince, I don’t find her admirable, nor do I find her a good role model. I am likewise offended when a heroine who is perfectly interesting on her own must be forced to couple up in order to hold the interest of a fantasy demographic. I love escapist literature, but the contours of escapism shouldn’t define the rules for every heroine out there. When potential editors ask me why my incredibly busy, stressed, and belabored queen can’t have a love life, something is wrong.
—  Erika Johansen - Why We Need “Ugly” Heroines
Wendy

I really love the story of Peter Pan in general.  I like the novel, musical, various film adaptations and spin offs… I think that universe and those characters are really something special.  I’m actually not a huge fan of the 1953 Disney version of Peter Pan.  Shocking, I know!  I’m not sure why, and for the most part I don’t have specific problems with it.  But overall it isn’t on the same level as other Disney movies for me (or other Peter Pan adaptations).  However, I do really like how they presented Wendy Darling.

Wendy is a story teller.  She is called “the supreme authority on Peter Pan.”  Wendy is constantly entertaining her younger brothers with her fantastic stories about Neverland.  Her talent for storytelling means she would have to be both very knowledgeable and very imaginative.

Mr. Darling, her father, does not approve of Wendy’s tales.  He thinks it’s childish and insists that she needs to grow up.  He says that she needs to leave the nursery behind to have her own room, separate from her brothers.  This change would mark Wendy’s transition from childhood into being a proper young lady. I think it’s really interesting that she then flies off to Neverland that night, which is essentially one big imaginative battle between eternal youth and oppressive adulthood (think about the lost boys vs. pirates).

Although Mr. Darling views his daughter as foolish, Wendy is nothing of the sort.  She’s very smart, and even very practical in her own way.  She actually serves as the voice of reason throughout most of the film.  Take the scene where she reattaches Peter’s shadow as an example.  Peter, the lost boys, and Wendy’s brothers would all be hopeless without her good sense and guidance.  She is a perfect balance of maturity and a youthful sense of fun.  That’s my favorite thing about Wendy.  She shows that you don’t need to sacrifice imagination for intelligence and responsibility.

Wendy is one of the most caring Disney girls.  She loves and looks out for all the lost boys as if she was their own mother.  Wendy’s kindness and forgiveness is pretty remarkable.  Up until the end of the film, Tinkerbell is absolutely terrible to Wendy.  When they first meet, Tink pulls her hair and calls her big and ugly.  Wendy, although hurt, responds about Tink “Oh, I think she’s lovely.”  She sets her pride aside for the sake of kindness and honesty.  Even when Tink convinces the lost boys to shoot Wendy, she is forgiven.  Peter wants to banish Tink forever but Wendy begs him “oh please, not forever!” That generosity is incredible. 

And this does not make Wendy weak or a push-over.  When the mermaids tease and try to drown Wendy, she won’t stand for it.  When the Indian women keeps bossing her around, Wendy just leaves.  Wendy really is very strong-willed.  When all the lost-boys were ready to join Captain Hook’s pirates out of fear, Wendy stood by her convictions and walked the plank.  She actually went through with it! She didn’t know that Peter would be hovering below to catch her.  That’s awesome.

Although Peter Pan is relatively popular and people seem to like Wendy, I don’t think enough people truly appreciate why she’s so great. Re-watching Peter Pan was worth it, if only for the sake of getting reacquainted with Wendy.

BRAVE WOMEN WITH STEREOTYPICALLY FEMININE VIRTUES, KIND AND PATIENT AND LOVING, AND THE OLDER, GRUFF AND WORLD-WEARY ANTI-HEROES WHO FALL FOR THEM.

… and rediscover the better in themselves.

It’s a yin-yang situation, really. Men burning like fire, consuming everything around them with blinded passion of their externally projected insecurities - and the women tempering them, soothing them, abrading their rough shells bit by little bit, with the never-ceasing vigorousness of the rising tide.

The soft as silk yet strong as steel pacifist heroines who sing around the domestic fire, who embroider and tell encouraging stories to the children, who consciously seek to be good and to find the good in others and make the world a little better for everyone.

The mature heroines who choose never to hurt anyone, who turn the other cheek with inspiring defiance, who hold their moral ground, who are well-aware of the hardships and cruelty around them, but do not allow it to overshadow the hopes they bear in their hearts and never cease to strive to inspire the same longing for harmony in others.

That is the kind of role model that I would like so very much to encounter more in the contemporary popular culture, as active participants in the stories that are told, not just passive figures sitting around to be saved and mourned after they meet their inevitable cruel death.

The women who actively seek out to make kind decisions and to do good.

Alianne Cooper is everything a female protagonist is not supposed to be. She is her own savior, both romantically appealing and unattainable, a love interest fully capable of saying no to advances just because she isn’t ready, a woman in control and possessed of great and unique power. She doesn’t need men to survive. She doesn’t play by their rules, unless it suits her. She is both flirtatious and truly independent. She is a dynamic, strong woman holding a position of real power that goes unrivaled, inspite of her often distinctly “girly” behaviours, and ability to engage emotionally. 

Alianne Cooper.

9

In an entertainment world where women are disappearing from multiplexes, where men bulk up as superheroes while women don’t eat but sip pink drinks, we need to remember that there was once a very short heroine who hunted monsters and talked about Einstein, who kicked ass and questioned her faith, who went to work with a man she loved but didn’t rip his shirt off over lunch, who didn’t want to believe, but opened herself nonetheless to possibility. We need Scully back, even for a moment.


– Rebecca Traister