Top 100 Women in Pop Culture! (Part 2)
And we’re back! We had a very positive response to the first part of our multi-part series of the female characters who are especially awesome. If you missed the first 20 entries in the list you can read it here. Hopefully you’ll find more of your favourites on the list this week, and have more you hop to see in future instalments! Comment below on who you’re still waiting for!
First Appearance: Game of Thrones: Episode 1. Portrayed by Maisie Williams.
Who is She?: The youngest daughter of the Stark family turned cross-country killer
Why She’s Great: No book spoilers. Arya Stark has gone a long way from her beginning of showing up her brothers with a bow-&-arrow, the young wolf pup who dreamed of sword fights and battles while her sister wished for jewels and princes has hardened, she’s seen sword fights and battles first-hand, some to a degree so horrifying it’s a wonder she survived. And yet that’s why Arya is so great, she does survive, she doesn’t roll over in the mud, crying her eyes out and wishing things to be different. She keeps going until she finds the opportune moment and then she unleashes a bloody knife into your throat. By the end of season 4 with that cold-eyed little girl, a million miles away from the scrappy underdog she was when we first met here, staring down the dying body of one of her ‘Kill List’ members, we come to realise that whatever Game everyone else is playing, Arya has her own rules and she intends to win.
First Appearance: Scott Pilgrim’s Precious Little Life
Who is She?: This Canadian of Chinese descent enters the story at 17 years of age, the rebound girlfriend of protagonist Scott Pilgrim. For Knives this is her first real relationship and when she’s left heart broken she follows a path of anger, revenge and finally acceptance.
Why She’s Great: Romana Flowers might be the girl at the centre of the drama but Knives is the more compelling character. Knives begins her story as a normal high school student searching for identity when indie rocker Scott Pilgrim opens up a world of music and hipster culture. After being baring her heart and being dumped her emotions take over and she embarks on an explosively violent attack on Romana while trying to date Scott’s friends. We like Knives because everyone can relate to her experience and confusion during her youth, and she entertains us the whole way through. It’s satisfying to see her come into her own by the end of the series.
PROFESSOR RIVER SONG
First Appearance: Doctor Who (Reboot) Season 4. Portrayed by Alex Kingston.
Who is She?: In short, she’s the Doctor’s wife…but it’s complicated. Both being time travellers their relationship is complicated by the fact that they keep meeting in the wrong order. When the Doctor first meets River she’s well acquainted with him, and he quickly learns that she’s not only an archaeologist but a high security prisoner, assassin, manipulator and general mischief maker.
Why She’s Great: As the Doctor’s displaced love interest Alex Kingston is the walking embodiment of sass. Endlessly fun to watch her banter, confidence and attitude make her one of the most fun things to ever happen to the veteran sci-fi shows. Coming and going from her cell as she pleases, carving lover notes into ancient landforms and keeping the notoriously flighty Doctor on his toes our only regret is not seeing more of her. And her hair!
First Appearance: Chuck (Season 1). Portrayed by Yvonne Strahovski.
Who is She?: Super spy extraordinaire (SSEX for short), she is one of Chuck Bartowski’s handlers after he gets a secret government program downloaded into his brain.
Why She’s Great: Because she kicks ass, even though her presence in the TV show tends to serve as eye candy she also puts the damsell in distress trope on its head as she’s generally the one that has to do the saving using her skills in hand to hand combat and deadly weapons expertise as well as her intelligence, spy skills (like speaking multiple languages and a master of subterfuge). So no matter if she does it wearing a tank top, a frilly “Wienerlicious” uniform, a bikini, a belly dance costume, a cocktail dress or office clothes she will always manage to kick some major buttage.
First Appearance: Red Dead Redemption (2010). Voiced by Kimberly Irion.
Who is She?: One of the first people John Martson meets in his epic adventure during the twilight years of the Old West. Bonnie runs the ranch owned by her elderly father, seeing off bandits, rounding up stray cattle and holding strong in dire times.
Why She’s Great: We wish we had more characters from video games on this list, but Bonnie goes a long way to making up for that. Born decades ahead of her time, Bonnie is a highly independent figure maintaining authority in a time where a woman’s place was in the home. Not that she’s a political idealist, she’s just doing what is needed. Bonnie has six brothers, five succumbed to the dangers of the frontiers and the remaining one has become a banker, leaving Bonnie to run the ranch and maintain the house or let it crumble. Although there are clearly unspoken feelings towards Marston, she respects his marriage and prioritizes her livelihood, avoiding many damsel in distress cliches (although she does get kidnapped at one point).
First Appearance: Marvel Super-Heroes #13
Who is She?: Carol Danvers was a former high-ranking member of the US Air Force now working for NASA security when she was exposed to extraterrestrial radiation granting her abilities similar to Kree sentry, Captain Mar-Vell
Why She’s Great: Carol Danvers was created for the sole purpose of not being a damsel in distress. Her entire origin is just one sexist face-off after another until she finally becomes one of the most powerful superheroes of the Marvel universe. She was raised by a chauvinist father who never believed in her when all she wanted to do was fly. She would go on to overcome the glass ceiling in the US military to become a colonel eventually earning her a spot in the CIA before becoming NASA security. Once powered up, Carol had little time for a love life and threw all her energy into being a great hero. She would struggle with a number of things over her tenure including an unwanted (and preternatural) pregnancy, alcoholism, and a coma at the hands of the X-Man, Rogue, but she would eventually return to being a premiere female character of the Marvel Universe, most recently dropping what I thought was a pandering feminine codename for a gender-neutral mantle she has dibs on. It is no fluke she is an often requested character for Marvel Studios to film next.
First Appearance: Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (2004). Portrayed by Kate Winslet.
Who is She?: Book store employee and recently in a long relationship with Joel. Having been left distraught and angry following their break-up she enlisted the services of Lucana Industries, who have erased all memories and knowledge of Joel from her mind.
Why She’s Great: There’s a weird and increasingly tiresome trend in cinema, the increased usage of what The AV Club dubbed the ‘Manic Pixie Dream Girl’. Being the entire basis of Zooey Deschanel’s career, they’re the love interest characters whose only discernible personality trait is ‘quirky’. Many romantic comedies and indie films have decided that being quirky is enough for a character to be appealing to the lead and the viewers. Clementine was at the beginning of this archetype becoming the norm, and proves that a character can be quirky, and layered, and developed and realistic. Her relationship with the older, sour Joel, who contrasts with the bright Clementine, may seem unusual but it does feel as though they have bonded on a deeply personal level, making it heart-breaking to see their relationship implode.
ANNA AND ELSA
First Appearance: Frozen (2013). Voiced by Kristen Bell and Idina Menzel respectively.
Who are They?: The future queen of Arendelle who has the power to control ice and snow and her younger sister who doesn’t.
Why They’re Great: It may be cheating to have two characters in one place but with these two you couldn’t have it any other way. The central sisterly relationship of Frozen is what makes the film and makes the characters, both incredibly well-realised and often flawed women that are just as strong together as they are as separate units. Anna is the younger, more optimistic but naive sister, due to her sister’s powers she’s been locked up in the castle with nobody to talk to and without her parents has been forced to grow up by herself. While she is a happy and energetic young woman her social knowledge is lacking and while she believes in true love she has no idea what it is. Elsa being the older sister has had more time to mature but because of her powers she lives in fear of hurting anyone again, she’s closed herself off entirely from the world, even her own sister, her best friend. It isn’t until she’s finally able to escape that the fears that once controlled her can’t get her at all, but of course at the cost of never seeing her sister again. Through all their flaws, their dreams, the bickering, the secrets, the laughs, the good times and the bad times, and the love these two share it all creates one of the most best and most realistic sibling relationships, at least for a Disney movie.
First Appearance: Detective Comics #359
Who is She?: Barbara is the daughter (or sometimes niece) of Gotham’s Commissioner Gordon who joins Batman’s crime-fighting family and goes from brilliant student to high-flying Batgirl to mastermind Oracle and back to a caped crusader.
Why She’s Great: Barbara Gordon is one of the most recognizable female faces of the comic-book world. The redhead was one of the first major female players in the game and early on showed us that girls can do anything boys can do. She was an inspiration back in the 60’s and even more so in the 80’s when, after being shot and paralyzed by the Joker, she became a symbol of a kickass superhero with a disability. Barbara is incredibly intelligent and her relationship with Batman and the bat-family (including her romance with Dick Grayson) is realistic and multi-faceted. She has the perfect mix of spunky athleticism and sweet every-woman that makes her relatable to comic book readers (especially young girls). Even after she’s back to being Batgirl with the reboot, Babs shows us that you can still be uncertain of yourself and be a strong and confident woman.
First Appearance: ‘The Addams Family’ cartoons in The New Yorker by Charles Addams. First appearance on television in the 1964, portrayed by Lisa Loring, and in cinemas in 1991, portrayed by Christina Ricci.
Who is She?: The eldest child and only daughter to Morticia and Gomez Addams, a wealthy and macabre family living in the modern suburbs (albeit in a gothic mansion). Dark, sadistic and menacing, she cares for her family and is passionate about her hobbies.
Why She’s Great: Although many different actors have provided the voice and face for Wednesday the definitive version is played by Christina Ricci in the 1991 movie and the sequel The Addams Family Values. Her calm stare and cold demeanor are unsettling enough, but the matter-of-fact way she talks about serial killers, Salem witch trials and her own aspirations towards torture and murder makes her doubly entertaining. When she’s sent on camp with overly cheerful counsellors and chirpy teens it’s every bit as fun as you’d expect.
First Appearance: Avengers Annual #10
Who is She?: Rogue is a mutant able to absorb another person’s lifeforce, memories, and abilities through skin-to-skin touch, a power she has no control over. She is a former member of the Brotherhood of Evil Mutants, the adopted daughter of Mystique, and is now considered one of the most trusted members of the X-Men.
Why She’s Great: Rogue’s Southern charm quickly made her a fan-favorite character in the hearts of so many X-fans. Beyond that charm was a life full of tragedy. Her powers manifested during her first kiss putting her boyfriend in a coma. When she did the same thing to Ms. Marvel, whose powers she had for a more sustained time frame than normal, she joined the X-Men to get help. Thankfully, that lack of physical contact never dulled her emotions. She was flirtatious, friendly, and heroic, never forgetting what the X-Men are fighting for.
First Appearance: Before Sunrise (1995). Portrayed by Julie Delpy.
Who is She?: One half of the longest running cinematic romance couple.
Why She’s Great: Over the course of three films and 18 years in real time we watch Celine grow as a character in a very realistic, if not always happy way. In Sunrise she’s a wishful romantic, free and clear with the world open to her, a feminist by heart yet still wanting to find true love. In Sunset we find her leading the life of an activist, helping those who can’t help themselves but has grown unhappy in life, partly because of her feelings for Jesse and the inability to forget him despite their years apart. And finally in Midnight, in a rare and bold move, they make Celine a more bitter and realistic character, loving to her family but fearful over lost opportunities, a fear not helped by Jesse’s previous wife hating her and the issue over his son and how to move on with their lives but still include him. It’s rare to see a character go down this road but it makes sense and through all three films Delpy portrays the all-too-familiar growth of cynicism as life gets in the way of hopes and dreams. Her realism and growth are what make her stand out as one of the best.
First Appearance: To Kill a Mockingbird (1962). Portrayed by Mary Badham.
Who is She?: Scout is the young daughter of Atticus Finch, a well-known local attorney, chosen to defend an innocent black man during the Great Depression.
Why She’s Great: Scout’s youthful age allows her to look at the world without so much of the bias and the adult complications. Having inherited her father’s progressive moral compass, the very innocent way that she condemns (or more accurately is unable to understand) the institutionalized racism of her time and place stops people in their tracks and forces them to reevaluate the way they treat people. I’m pretty sure she doesn’t even know she is doing it, which makes it all the more genuine.
GOV. ELAINE MARLEY
First Appearance: The Secret of Monkey Island (1990)
Who is She?: A well loved politician in the Caribbean Islands during the heyday of piracy. Initially the governor of Melee Island, and later Booty Island, and the on-again, off-again love interest of Guybrush Threepwood, wannabe pirate.
Why She’s Great: Guybrush Threepwood flew in the face of the muscle bound, gun toting heroes of the early console years by relying on his wits, puzzle solving skills and ability to run away very quickly. It suits that he would fall in love with Governess Marley, a powerful, confident and sassy politician. Although she makes the first move she often tires of Guybrush’s foolish behaviour and leaves him in the lurch to focus on her career. This is a romance written in the stars though and she always lets him come back…so long as he doesn’t ruin her career.
First Appearance: You’re Next (2013). Portrayed by Sharni Vinson.
Who is She?: She is the final girl of the 2013 slasher film, You’re Next.
Why She’s Great: Every great slasher film needs a great final girl, and Erin is easily the best final girl in years! When the movie begins she is a sweet young woman in her final year of graduate school on her way to meet her boyfriend’s family for the first time. She is nervous, and she wants his family to like him. She is eager to please them, going so far as to ask if she can help with the chores. She is an outsider trying to find an in with this family. But she isn’t fake. She really is a genuinely good person with a big heart and a good head on her shoulders and there is something adorable about her. When you first look at her, there is just something sweet about her…and then everything goes to Hell! When the killers start to murder her boyfriend’s family one-by-one, she takes control of the situation and we learn through her actions and little bits of dialogue about her life and her past. She is trained in survival and has lived a hard life, especially as a young girl with her father. But her hard life has left her with more skills than Brian Mills in Taken. Basically she is more deadly than every killer in this film, and when she fights back, NOTHING is left untouched. She even turns a blender into a murder weapon in the best scene of the film. She is such a strong character, and Sharni Vinson brings Erin to life with her fantastic portrayal and one of the best performances I’ve seen in a slasher film. In one movie, she has become one of the best modern scream queens.
First Appearance: Vikings Season 1. Portrayed by Kathryn Winnick.
Who is She?: Lagertha is a famous shield-maiden who fights alongside her husband, Ragnar Lothbrok, the most powerful Viking warrior and raider, when not being mother to their children.
Why She’s Great: She is an undeniable badass. She might not be physically imposing, but she surely makes up for it with a big heart and keen skills. She won’t take shit from anyone, including her own husband. She is stern but loving in her parenting, compassionate as a ruler, and a valiant as a warrior. It is actually quite difficult to find a fault here.
First Appearance: Captain Marvel #14
Who Is She?: Kamala Khan is the latest lady to take the mantle of Captain Marvel. She is a teenage Pakistani American from New Jersey with shapeshifting abilities who takes over the name from her idol Carol Danvers.
Why She’s Great: The first obvious answer here is that Kamala Khan is a Muslim American woman as one of the most beloved Marvel heroes. This is a landmark in comic diversity and is important especially in today’s political climate to fight back against discrimination. She’s also still a teenager, which means she deals with the typical issues that all teenage girls do (minus having superpowers of course). Kamala Khan is not only a landmark in diversity but a well-rounded and well-written character that you can’t help but love.
First Appearance: Detective Comics # 647
Who is She?: The daughter of C-list villain, Cluemaster, Stephanie Brown decided to take teenage rebellion to the next level. She took it upon herself to join the ranks of Gotham’s vigilantes by donning the mantle of Spoiler. Years later she made comic book history as the first female to take on the coveted role of Robin and worked side-by-side with the Dark Knight himself. After returning from the dead as comic book characters tend to do, she became the third woman to take on the role of Batgirl.
Why She’s Great: Gotham City has no shortage of black clad superheroes who have been trained by Batman to be experts in the field of crime fighting. But Stephanie Brown caught reader’s attention by taking it upon herself to put on a costume and challenge the criminal underworld. Upon discovering that her father, Cluemaster has lied to her about changing his ways, she took on the alter ego of Spoiler in order to “spoil” his plans. Unlike the other heroes in the city, she did not wait for Batman to open the door for her, she kicked it down for herself. Over the years she has attracted a cult following among fans due to her scrappy attitude and seemingly constant position as an underdog. Readers can relate to Stephanie Brown in a way they are unable to with the other vigilantes in the Bat Family, because she is not a skilled martial artist or master detective but she has a drive that in many ways makes her the heart of Gotham’s heroes. Whether she is wearing the costume of; Spoiler, Robin, or Batgirl; Stephanie Brown’s tenacity and sense of hope has remained a constant.
First Appearance: Saving Grace Season 1. Portrayed by Holly Hunter.
Who is She?: Grace is a promiscuous, heavy drinking, chain smoking police detective in Oklahoma City, whose sister was killed in the 1995 bombing of the Oklahoma City Federal Building. One night, while driving drunk, she ran over a person and called out to God for help. God sent her a “last chance” angel, a spiritual guide to let her know that she is destined for Hell unless she changes her ways.
Why She’s Great: Grace is a big personality. She is the life of every party, but unlike many of those kinds of characters, she takes her responsibilities to her job and her family very seriously. She makes sacrifices for the better and mistakes to her detriment in equal measure. This makes her complicated and allows her arc to move in more than one direction. That arc is to become a better person,a journey that is fraught with hypocrisies and arguments. Grace is an iceberg, not easy to move, and even ends up teaching her angel a thing or two about being better.
BRIDE OF FRANKENSTEIN
First Appearance: The Bride of Frankenstein (1935). Portrayed by Elsa Lanchester.
Who is She?: A monster created by Dr. Frankenstein and his mentor Dr. Pretorius, in an attempt to gain the trust of Frankenstein’s infamous monster. Instead of the blocky features of her intended mate, the Bride sports a more glamorous look.
Why She’s Great: When even the most casual of horror fan is forced to think of a female monster, they instinctively choose this gothic beauty. With film being a medium which relies strongly on visuals, the image of the Bride is one which burns itself into the memory of the audience. Acclaimed make-up artist, Rick Baker described it best as a glamour make-up with a horror edge. Having Else Lanchester, who played Mary Shelley at the beginning portray the Bride was a touch of genius as it brought an extra layer of fascination to character as the creator herself became the monster.
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