The Top 100 Women in Pop Culture! (Part 3)
Do you know what I like about these articles? The great stuff that I haven’t checked out yet. This week, between assembling the House writers great work nominating women for the list, I’ve been reading two new comic lines (entries 47 and 52) and watching a cool show I knew nothing about (entry 60). We’ve got another 20 this week, we hope you find something new and see some of your favourites.
ORORO MUNROE aka STORM
First Appearance: Giant Size X-Men #1
Who is She?: Ororo Munroe is a superhero, member of the X-men, and previous queen consort of Wakanda.
Why She’s Great: Storm is first and foremost a badass superhero. She can control the weather, which means she can create storms, hit people with lightening, and even fly. She has some of the coolest and most powerful abilities of all superheroes. And of course, being a strong black female role model in a medium that often lacks diverse representation is incredibly important.She has been not only an active participant but a leader as well of the mutant superhero group X-Men. There are some really great women in comic books; some are strong fighters, some are great leaders, and others are just well-rounded emotionally. Storm is all three of these, providing readers with excellent storylines and proving that women can and will hold their own in a world dominated by men.
SARAH JANE SMITH
First Appearance: Doctor Who Season 11. Portrayed by Elizabeth Sladen.
Who is She?: A journalist who first met the time travelling Doctor as a young woman, infiltrating a government facility using her aunts identity. Upon snooping in the TARDIS Sarah Jane winds up travelling with the Doctor for some time, witnessing his third regeneration, being reunited with him decades later and participating in the defense of Earth officially and unofficially.
Why She’s Great: The Doctor has travelled with a great many wonderful characters over the five decades of the show, and few have been as fondly remembered as Sarah Jane Smith. Elisabeth Sladen was 27 when she first stepped into the role and and she continued to revisit her until her death at age 65. Sarah Jane was one of the first feminist characters on mainstream television, making her mark standing up to Jon Pertwee’s smirking dandy and the barmy Tom Baker. Harboring a softer side that occasionally came to the surface ensured that viewers grew attached to her, making it all the more thrilling when she returned to the show more than thirty years later to meet the 10th Doctor. From here she branched into her own series The Sarah Jane Adventures, bringing the world of Doctor Who to younger viewers.
NATASHA ROMANOFF aka BLACK WIDOW
First Appearance: Iron Man 2 (2010). Portrayed by Scarlett Johansson.
Who is She?: Natasha is the Black Widow; a super spy who works for SHIELD and later joins up with Iron Man and the rest in The Avengers. She has appeared in three Marvel films so far and will also be in the upcoming Avengers: Age of Ultron.
Why She’s Great: Black Widow started out as a comic book character and she’s amazing there as well but I wanted to focus on her portrayal in the films. Johansson does a fantastic job of humanizing a character that could have been shown as an ice-cold killing machine with a very special set of skills. Instead, the writing and acting gives Natasha humor, depth, and humanity. She is an example of someone with a bad past who is trying to redeem themselves for their actions. Instead of another one-dimensional female love interest that so often show up in films, Natasha is layered and original, a true individual whose personality and kick-ass ability to fight the bad guys make her just as awesome as any of the leading male superheroes in her films. As Marvel continues to feature Black Widow in their films they continue to present us with one of the best comic-to-film females ever.
First Appearance: Supernatural Season 2. Portrayed by Samantha Ferris.
Who is She?: Ellen is a seasoned hunter and ally of Sam and Dean Winchester. When her hunter husband died, she retired to raise their daughter. She opened the Roadhouse, a bar for hunters to come and go, talk shop, and look for help. She was trying to shield her daughter (Jo, also a great woman of fiction) from the life but like mother like daughter. The two hit the road together because Ellen just couldn’t let her do it alone.
Why She’s Great: If Bobby was the boys’ surrogate father, Ellen is their surrogate mother. She still has a hard edge that lets her fit right in, but she brings just that bit of maternal energy that the show was missing. It instantly gives her authority in the hunter circles. There is a scene that I love that encapsulate this feeling. Ellen crosses paths with the Winchesters in a town being controlled by the Horseman of War. She kept her game-face on until they were off the streets and safe, where she finally broke down and gave Dean a hug. After which she slapped him in the face and with a stern voice said, “What, you can’t pick up a phone? What are you, allergic to giving me peace of mind?”
First Appearance: Tomb Raider (1996)
Who Is She?: The heir to a multi-million dollar estate and family fortune, life took a turn for young Lara Croft when a plane crash left her stranded in the Himalayas and forced to survive on her own. Having been bit by the adventure bug Croft dedicated her life to exploration and uncovering the mysteries of the past.
Why She’s Great: An accidental 200% adjustment to Lara’s body specifications during programming brought plenty of attention to the buxom adventurer, but it’s her character and spirit that saw her video game/movie/comic book franchise continue strong for almost two decades while many of her peers are left in the bargain bin. She’s a bold, fearless danger seeker respected by her peers and feared by her enemies who isn’t driven by her pride or greed but a sense of adventure. The contrast between her upper class British accent, doddering butler (often locked in the freezer) and expansive mansion and her singular drive to crawl through crumbling caverns and swing across chasms. Over time her story has been reworked, most recently given an entirely grim and uncomfortable reboot that was good in its own right, but the thrill of the chase is still the core of Lara Croft.
First Appearance: Firefly Season 1. Portrayed by Gina Torres.
Who is She?: Zoe is an ex-rebel who serves as first mate to Captain Malcolm Reynolds aboard the ship Serenity. Together with their crew they cruise space looking for odd jobs to keep afloat while still defying the Alliance.
Why She’s Great: Zoe is another amazingly well-rounded female character courtesy of Joss Whedon. She’s extremely tough; holding her own in any fight and equal or better than any man on the ship when it comes to fighting or tactics. She’s also shrew, logical, and capable and has shown herself to be a leader when necessary but also supremely loyal to her captain and the rest of her crew. Zoe manages to not be a one-dimensional tough girl; she is also a loving wife and friend and jokes with the best of them. Not to mention, she’s one of the few African-American women in big roles on television, let alone in the Sci-Fi genre. Zoe is fierce and fabulous in every way imaginable.
First Appearance: Hack/Slash #1
Who is She?: Cassie is the daughter of a serial killer known as The Lunch Lady, who killed any teenager she felt treated Cassie poorly and then used them in the school cafeteria as “mystery meat.” When Cassie confronted her about it, she committed suicide only to return as a vengeful slasher. Feeling responsible, Cassie killed her undead mother and continued hunting down slashers just like her.
Why She’s Great: The final girl is a popular trope in horror. They are young, naive, virginal, and have the “supernatural” ability to survive. Cassie subverts the trope. She is a much different kind of survivor. She is a bit of a potty mouth and a smartass, which makes her likable in totally different way than the usual final girl. She has a cynical edge but a good sense of humor, and her appearance is way more punk rock than the usual girl’s next door. It also doesn’t take much for her to take her destiny in her own hands and stand up to the forces of evil. She dives right in, not afraid to get her hands dirty.
First Appearance: Luther (Season 1). Portrayed by Ruth Wilson.
Who is She?: The sometime enemy, occasional friend, all round menace to the life of John Luther
Why She’s Great: Alice enters the show in a way that really sets the tone for her character. By murdering her parents and shooting her dog to hide her gun in its stomach. Alice is… she’s a total sociopath, a narcissist, a genius and far too calm around the concept of murder. She’s also joy to watch and Ruth Wilson’s Joker-like performance of a woman who not only knows she’s a killer but actively enjoys the fact is something you don’t see a lot of. Her strange relationship with Luther, actively seeking his approval whilst continuing her murderous streak, serves to add another layer of madness to this strange but fascinating character.
First Appearance: Hanna (2011). Portrayed by Saoirse Ronan.
Who is She?: A young girl trained from birth to be a killing machine.
Why She’s Great: Hanna is something of an oddity, no more than a child yet already bred to be a killing machine, her physical skills and abilities reach far beyond her years. And yet mentally she’s still a child, a young girl brought up away from social situations, when she’s forced on her own she enters a strange, colourful, frightening and incredible place called The World. It’s Ronan’s ability to mix adult killing tactics with a child’s wondrous imagination that makes Hanna such a unique person and watching her realise the world she missed as a child makes it almost easy to forget she’s a trained killer.
KATE BISHOP aka HAWKEYE
First Appearance: Young Avengers #1
Who is She?: Kate Bishop is the privileged daughter of a publishing magnate, except she never bought in to her father’s self-serving lifestyle. Instead, she used her financial good fortune to buy new costumes and equipment for her Young Avengers teammates, while taking up the mantle of the thought-dead Hawkeye, Clint Barton.
Why She’s Great: Because she has to be. She’s a privileged white teenaged girl who took a mantle that wasn’t hers to take, no one is going to take her seriously. But when she teams up with the Young Avengers, she leads and finances them. When she teams up with Clint, she’s not a protege, she’s a partner. When she works solo, she cares about the little guy, even if it means screwing over her father. When rape was introduced into her backstory, it motivated her without defining her. She is self-aware of her strengths and limitations, which is what gives her an edge in the much bigger Marvel universe.
First Appearance: Veronica Mars Season 1. Portrayed by Kristen Bell.
Who is She?: High school student, misanthrope and amatuer detective. Having suffered through the murder of her best friend, the departure of her mother and societal shunning Veronica has developed a cynical world view and now emulates her father, a private detective.
Why She’s Great: Cast very much in the same mold as Buffy Summers if she was displaced from the supernatural genre into film noir, Veronica Mars turned into a powerful character in her own right, becoming the more mature choice for viewers. Mars taught viewers to get tough, get even and rely on your smarts to carve your own path. Veronica’s relationship with her father and the other men in her life formed most of the drama of the show, but it’s finding out how she’s going to solve the case and outwit the criminals that made us tune in again and again.
THE RAT QUEENS
First Appearance: Rat Queens #1
Who are They?: A band of mercenaries including an Elven sorceress (Hannah), beardless lady Dwarf (Violet), drug loving Halfling (Betty) and an atheist human Necromancer (Dee).
Why are they Great: Their battle cry “Put the sexy back in the large wholesale slaughter!” pretty much sums them up and yet doesn’t quite do them justice. Imagine if someone got a blender and mixed together the crude and rude immaturity of the Ninja Turtles, the fantasy of Fellowship, those stoners from high school and Xena, that creates these kick ass warrior women. They aren’t clean and polished or even liked by the people of their village, but they are needed for their abilities in combat and their willingness to get down and dirty. They smoke, drink, curse, have sex and do it all without falling prey to too many of the female stereotypes often found in comics. Sure a couple are drawn with great figures and larger than average breasts but often those bodies are covered in blood and fighting an angry horde of nasty creatures. Each woman is complex and represents something far deeper the more you learn about them, all fighting something within themselves as well as the beasts that surround them. Violet battles against her traditions, Dee her religious beliefs, Hannah her emotional entanglements and Betty her own carefree nature. These are not simply a female version of something else, they are characters in and of themselves who can grow and mature as the series continues..
DR. ELLIE SATTLER
First Appearance: Jurassic Park (1993). Portrayed by Laura Dern.
Who is She?: Dr. Ellie Sattler is a tenacious paleobotanist with a reputation as the best in her field and was offered an exclusive invitation to the pre-opening of a “wildlife reserve”. The catch here is that the wildlife reserve is actually A THEME PARK WITH DINOSAURS IN IT.
Why She’s Great: Simply put she’s a well-written and relatable character who stands out amongst a field that’s often dominated by men. It’s refreshing to see a big screen scientist as the hero that a little girl can see herself as in 10-20 years. I’m not saying that they can’t aspire to be a good male character but with the field so dominated by a specific gender it’s nice to field some other examples. Other than that she’s a headstrong, independent thinker who uses her own wit and knowledge to outsmart deadly creatures throughout the story. She’s tenacious and doesn’t hold back her thoughts without coming across as aggressive or someone you wouldn’t be able to relate to – and that’s why she’s so great.
First Appearance: The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo (2009). Portrayed by Noomi Rapace.
Who is She?: Anti-social, possible sociopathic, computer hacker. Having escaped a bad home life and a worse social services stint she makes her way through life operating in the shadows of the internet as ‘The Wasp’, where she exacts revenge on those who have wronged her or other women. In the course of the initial story she is recruited by journalist Mikael Blomkvist to track down a serial killer.
Why She’s Great: What’s surprising about this character is that we haven’t been inundated with dozens of copies. Maybe Hollywood got it out of its system in the years after The Matrix. With hair dyed black, pale skin, covered in tattoos and dressed in spikes, studs and leather Lisbeth presents a very hostile exterior to the world, which sits in contrasts to job as a highly paid security expert. We can’t ignore that Lisbeth is something of a cliche, being one of the billion characters with an eidetic memory on our screens this past decade, but it’s her drive for revenge that makes her fascinating. Whenever someone wrongs her we sit on the edge of our seat to find out what diabolical and driven vengeance she unleashes on them, and she is often wronged because of assumptions about her gender. She unleashes some of the most satisfying revenge plots in cinema.
First Appearance: The Shield Season 1. Portrayed by CCH Pounder.
Who is She?: Claudette is one of the few female African-American police detectives in the LAPD. She works out of The Barn, a precinct office in the Farmington neighborhood (get it?). As a senior detective, she was passed over a few times for captain.
Why She’s Great: Claudette is really good at her job. Like the best. So good, she caught the attention of LAPD’s most promising new detective Dutch Wagenbach, who requested to be her partner so that he may learn a thing or two. She is also the most morally sound in the most morally corrupt precinct in LA, thanks to the aggressive Vic Mackey and his gang task force that also calls the Barn their home. She butts heads with them frequently, although is not above using them if they are needed either.
First Appearance: Sen to Chihiro no Kamikakushi (Spirited Away) (2001). Voiced by Rumi Hiiragi and Daveigh Chase.
Who Is She?: A typical young girl whose parents are moving to a new town. Chihiro’s thoughts of sadness are pushed aside when her family stops by an abandoned amusement park, where they find a large feast. Her parents don’t heed Chihiro’s warnings and eat the food, turning into pigs. Chihiro takes work at a bathhouse for spirits in order to win back her parents and her own identity.
Why She’s Great: I don’t think anyone expected us to get through this list without one of Hayao Miyazaki’s creations turning up. His films feature some of the best young characters ever written, including Kiki and Princess Mononoke. Chihiro stands out for the journey her character goes on from petulant child through to maturity as she is faced with decisions in the spirit world. By going with her instincts she is able to find out her she really is, a careful allegory the for end of childhood. Chihiro inhabits a beautifully drawn world and as viewers it’s a treat to follow her through it.
First Appearance: Batman #475
Who is She?: Renee Montoya began as a detective for Gotham City Police Department who often interacted with Batman. Later on she befriends Vic Sage who trains her to replace him as the superhero The Question.
Why She’s Great: Besides being a strong female with great values (she quits the GCPD because of corruption) Renee Montoya is another example of diversity in comics. Not only is she a great Latina role model, but a lesbian one as well. Renee is an example of a charater who began as a background role but because her own entity and even hero. She is relatable and fierce, whether as a detective or a face-less hero.
BRENDA LEIGH JOHNSON
First Appearance: The Closer Season 1. Portrayed by Kyra Sedgwick.
Who Is She?: Atlanta born, she is a former CIA agent and captain in the Atlanta PD, who moved to LA to become Deputy Chief of the Priority Crimes Division.
Why She’s Great: It is rare that we get a female officer that can carry an entire show on her own, often she is partnered with a man or another woman, but Brenda doesn’t need anyone else, she commands her own squad. Brenda has an attitude and demeanor that, despite the sweet Southern accent, often leads to her being called a bitch to which her initial response in the show’s opener was “If I wanted to be called a bitch, I’d still be married.” She doesn’t care who she insults, whose career she may jeopardize, even her own, all she cares about is justice being served and the bad guy getting exactly what is coming to them, often taking it a bit too far. Brenda is incredibly complex and also wonderfully flawed, she fights her own urges, a drawer of sweets always on the ready, and is always battling her desire to keep her job stable but her love life separate and strong as well.
First Appearance: Saga #1: Chapter One
Who is She?: A member of the winged people of Landfall, she is a former private first class in the war against her planet’s main adversary the Wreathers, but was demoted to a prison guard where she met and fell in love with an enemy soldier, Marko. Throughout the series she is fighting for survival in a universe that is trying to destroy her unconventional family.
Why She’s Great: An exceptionally strong willed woman who combines the aggressiveness of a soldier, the protective nature of a mother and a pure romantic. She never really falls into any stereotypical female character category however, for example as she is holding her baby in one arm, she is aiming a gun at an assassin with the other. The entire series plays around with gender roles, allowing Alana to take on the more masculine role of the warrior who would rather fight for survival than run away but without ever forgetting that she is also a woman. One of the more intriguing aspects of Alana is her sappy romantic side, as she focuses a great deal of time and energy on a romance novel to guide her through poignant moments of her life. Like many of the more progressive female comic characters, Alana doesn’t fade into the background allowing others to fight her battles, she is crude, rude and sometimes very violent and yet she is still a loving mother and wife, doing everything she possibly can to just survive.
First Appearance: Warehouse 13 Season 1
Who is She?: Claudia is a hacker and inventor prodigy who works at Warehouse 13, a secret location that houses the world’s weirdest and craziest supernatural artifacts. She first got the job when she attacked the location blaming its current caretaker, Artie Nielsen, for the death of her brother, the only family she ever really knew.
Why She’s Great: Claudia has an infinite amount of curiosity that has given her a Doc Brown level of ingenuity and sense of wonder. Her dry wit keeps her teammates on their toes, and her headstrong determination keeps her pretty adventurous. This, of course, is simply a shield for her deep-seated fears of abandonment that is smothering the potential that everyone sees in her. The Warehouse seems to literally recognize her, and she seems to have a special connection to all artifacts. She is also favored to take over when Artie retires.
Now…vote for your favourite!