The Top 100 Women in Pop Culture! (Part 4)
It’s our second last entry in the series, counting down another 20 awesome women from our favourite shows, movies, games and comics. It certainly isn’t easy narrowing the list down to 100, but don’t panic if your favourite women haven’t turned up yet…we’ve saved some of the most iconic for next week!
First Appearance: Star Trek: The Original Series Season 1. Portrayed by Nichelle Nichols.
Who is She?: A communications officer aboard the USS Enterprise of Starfleet.
Why She’s Great: Uhura is another revolutionary character. She was not only one of the first black women on television in a serious role, but her on-screen kiss with co-star William Shatner was the first scripted inter-racial kiss on United States television. She was a serious, strong, and intelligent woman who audiences could admire and look up to and an excellent role model for diversity in the 1960’s. Besides all of that, she was super good at her job and a kick-ass member of the crew. Uhura’s popularity has only grown with the recent Star Trek remakes (portrayed by Zoe Saldana) and even in today’s more modern cinema world she stands as a beacon of diversity and strong female characters.
First Appearance: Who Framed Roger Rabbit? (1988). Voiced by Kathleen Turner.
Who is She?: The definitive sex bomb, a lounge singer in the noir real/cartoon mash up world. She’s also married to murder suspect and cartoon rabbit Roger.
Why She’s Great: It’s easy to write Jessica Rabbit off as the definitive animated sex symbol – and she is that – but she’s also a wonderfully written character. She’s the only character in the murder mystery who remains an enigma to the viewers from beginning to end. Maybe she’s in on it and leading Roger on like a stereotypical femme fatale, maybe she’s loyal to her husband. If she’s loyal, why is she married to the pratfalling, slapstick rabbit in the first place? She happens to have the perfect answer to that: he makes her laugh. In the world she inhabits that makes perfect sense. She’s cool, alluring and witty…but she’s not bad, she’s just drawn that way.
First Appearance: Leon: The Professional (1992) Portrayed by Natalie Portman
Who is She?: A somewhat delinquent 12 year old living in New York, whose parents and family are murdered by corrupt cops. She takes shelter with her neighbour, a professional hitman, who accepts her as an apprentice.
Why She’s Great: Although this list is about character and not actors, we would be remiss not to mention the surprisingly mature work done by a young Natalie Portman, especially in the uncut version that pushes the boundaries of Leon and Mathilda’s relationship, both personally and professionally. Mathilda begins as a bratty and angry child living in an abusive family. Although being trained as a hitman isn’t the best path for her it gives her something to be passionate about, and give her a happier place in the world. As dark as it is, it may be the escape for a damaged soul. We never find out just how things turn out for Mathilda but we hope it’s pleasant and without murder.
First Appearance: This could have been about a cartoon character, an action figure, or (shudder) a film character but The Baroness first appeared in the first issuo of “G.I. Joe: A Real American Hero” a comic series published by Marvel Comics in 1982.
Who is She?: Anastasia Cisarovna A.K.A. Anastasia DeCobray (very clever guys!), the Baroness is one of the main baddies from the G.I. Joe franchise. After being frustrated with the U.S. government she becomes a revolutionary activist ending as a member of the Cobra terrorist military group, climbing the ranks until she ends up as Cobra Commander’s lieutenant and the group’s intelligence officer.
Why She’s Great: She’s a badass character that sadly got the wrong end of the stick in that silly G.I. Joe movie (brainwashed, a love triangle, really?)
Her characters traits can be communicated by her image, all dressed in tight black garbs she’s a sensual femme fatale, her black rimmed glasses give way to a more sophisticated and intelligent demeanor. Mix this up and we get a ruthless villain who doesn’t take any crap from “the Joes”. She was truly the main power behind Cobra. The good guys had Lady Jaye and Scarlett who could surely take a punch and deal an even harder blow your way but Baroness had that plus more. She had brains and power and most importantly did whatever the hell she wanted. If she wanted to be with Destro that’s cool, if she wanted to change allegiances that’s fine, if she wanted to come back to Cobra well welcome back! She was the head bitch in charge!
THE ORPHAN BLACK CLONES
First Appearance: Orphan Black Season 1, portrayed by Tatiana Maslany
Who Are They?: Results of a genetic experiment, these ladies are all individualistic strong-willed and fantastic women who must work together to figure out who they are, who created them, and who is trying to kill them.
Why They’re Great: Tatiana Maslany is an acting genius; she manages to put a completely unique personality into each and every clone. There’s rebellious tough-girl Sarah, nerdy lesbian biologist Cosima, high-strung housewife Allison, mysterious detective Beth, and pyschotic assassin Helena, among others. Together these ladies must fight against forces that wish to study and control them and occasionally against each other. Orphan Black is hands down one of the best television shows for women with a majority-female cast that lacks one-dimensional or stereotypical characters and doesn’t rely on boy-drama to carry the show. All of Tatiana’s clones deserve a spot on this list and each is fantastic in their own right.
First Appearance: A Nightmare on Elm Street (1984). Portrayed by Heather Langenkamp.
Who is She?: Nancy is a 16 year old girl who begins to have nightmares about a man with knives for fingers trying to kill her. After her friends begin dying in their sleep Nancy sets out to trap the boogeyman and stop his reign of terror.
Why She’s Great: Nancy Thompson is not only likeable as a person but wise beyond her years and pretty kick-ass. She automatically thinks something odd is going on when her friends keep dying (instead of just ignoring the facts) and starts investigating right away. After a few sleepless and terrifying nights, Nancy starts to piece together what is happening to her and instead of sitting around and crying about it, she takes the initiative to stop Freddy herself. After her idiot boyfriend gets himself killed by Freddy, Nancy goes into her dream and brings him out, even though she’s locked inside her house and no one actually believes her. Then she leads him through a house of booby-traps and destroys him. In ANOES 3 Nancy reprises her role as Freddy’s nemesis and once again delivers as a good horror role model, dying to protect the kids who Freddy was attacking. Nancy doesn’t have some tragic backstory or special powers. She’s just an average girl that anyone can relate to. Nancy Thompson will always be the bravest, smartest, and most resourceful horror heroine.
First Appearance: Beavis and Butt-Head Season 1. Voiced by Tracy Grandstaff.
Who is She?: Initially a student sharing a class with dunderheads Beavis and Butt-Head, Daria moved with her family to a new town and high school. A determinedly anti-social intellectual and introvert.
Why She’s Great: If you spent any part of the 1990s in high school (along with were discman and Nirvana tee) you can read on. You know it. Daria came to be one of the defining characters of that era, embodying the disenfranchised attitude of teenagers, facing her conflicts with snark and sarcasm. She was quite well rounded, facing her own personal struggles and having her values challenged. Daria was in the right time at the right place, and gave us misanthropes someone to emulate.
KATE KANE aka BATWOMAN
First Appearance: 52 #7
Who is She?: Kate Kane is a socialite from Gotham who becomes a superhero after being kicked out of the army for her sexual orientation and searching for a way to serve her city. After grueling training with her military father she dons the cape and mask and is accepted by Batman as a worthy crime-fighter.
Why She’s Great: Kate represents some major diversity in the comic book world: she’s a Jewish lesbian ex-military superhero. She’s also not just another Batgirl, Kate has her own unique personality that continues to be fleshed out in her reboot series. Like Batman, she is tough and can be harsh in her manners. Kate’s romantic exploits with Renee Montoya and Maggie Sawyer, her strained relationship with her father, and her struggle to find her place in the world are all relatable issues suffered by a super badass and incredibly interesting character. Kate is also incredibly influencial because of the things she deals with as an out lesbian; something that many women (and men) in this world can see a connection to.
First Appearance: The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers (2002) portrayed by Miranda Otto
Who is She?: Eowyn is the niece of King Theodon of Rohan. She is a dutiful niece and sister and a fantastically brave shieldmaiden.
Why She’s Great: Eowyn is an example of a female character that is written against the typical stereotype. Rather than just being a pretty scared princess or a kickass ice queen or a lovesick woman, she is all of these things. She has the weight of the world on her shoulders caring for her deteriorating uncle and fighting off the advances of uber-creep Grima yet stays loyal to her family and her people. After falling in love with dashing Aragorn and being rejected she does not wallow in self pity but stays strong. Disobeying her uncle, Eowyn joins the men at the battle of Pelennor Fields where she saves his life and slays the “unbeatable” Witch-King. Eowyn is a fantastic character not only because she shows that women can be multi-faceted, but also because her growth as a person in the films is so tangible and believable. We may not be killing any wraiths but we can still identify with this strong, loyal, fierce, and caring young woman.
First Appearance: Mulan (1998). Voiced by Ming-Na Wen and Lea Salonga.
Who is She?: Mulan is the tomboyish daughter of an elderly war veteran in ancient China who disguises herself as a man to join the army and ends up saving all of China from the Hun army.
Why She’s Great: Although her society and family push her to be a beautiful and meek housewife, Mulan’s spirit and awkwardness make this process difficult for her. When her father is recruited back into the army to fight against the invading Huns, Mulan chops off her hair and disguises herself as a man to take her father’s place and save his life. She struggles through fitting in there as well but with the help of friends, a talking dragon, and her own perseverance she ends up saving her entire kingdom. Mulan is an amazing role model in so many ways. First off, she’s an example that women shouldn’t be stuck in traditional female roles. Also, she is selfless and kind, always putting others before herself. She is also incredibly brave yet in a relatable way because audiences see her fear and doubt. In the film she grows into a confident young woman by being true to herself and not conforming to society’s expectations. Mulan is a kick-ass heroine, based on a true story, and immortalized by Disney.
DOROTHY ‘ACE’ MCSHANE
First Appearance: Doctor Who Season 24. Portrayed by Sophie Aldred.
Who is She?: The companion with a punk rock edge and a mysterious past who tags along with the Seventh Doctor for his adventures through time and space. The two formed a brilliant teacher-student chemistry which carried on until the series ended.
Why She’s Awesome: With a few exceptions the companions in the original series were there to scream and run from the monsters. The memo that said that this was how companions were supposed to act got lost on its way to the baseball bat wielding, Ace. Rather than flee from the Daleks, she chose to bash them with a baseball bat. Beneath her edgy facade, viewers learned, that Ace was a troubled girl who was struggling to overcome her past, which endeared her to fans even moreso. The series may have ended during her run, but she was such a popular character, that writers continued to utilize her in the further adventures of the Doctor via books and comics.
First Appearance: The Mary Tyler Moore Show Season 1. Portrayed by Mary Taylor Moore.
Who is She?: Mary Richards is a single woman who becomes Associate Producer of WJM-TV’s Six O’clock News.
Why She’s Great: In 1970 there wasn’t that much diversity in women’s roles on television. When this show came along, Mary Tyler Moore played Mary Richards; a go-getting, sincere, hard-working single lady with an awesome career. This was very different from the typical housewife role that women played at the time and the show and character are considered revolutionary. She was a strong female whose main role on the show did not revolve around a finding/keeping/chasing a man. Mary Richards was, and continues to be, one of the best feminist icons in television history.
First Appearance: Casino Royale (2006). Portrayed by Eva Green.
Who is She?: She’s a treasury liaison tasked with assisting James Bond in his mission of infiltrating a high stakes poker tournament to further uncover SPECTRE and their global plans.
Why She’s Great: Well she’s basically THE BOND GIRL in my honest opinion and I’m including Ursula Andress! Ok maybe going that far is a little extreme but if there’s one thing we love dearly in our Bond girls it’s the femme fatale quality that makes them just as mysterious as Bond himself. Vesper Lynd goes toe to toe with Bond multiple times throughout the movie and is able to match wits with him while still wrapping the world’s greatest spy around her finger. She’s much more than the cold and sarcastic exterior that she possesses and that’s what makes her uniquely interesting to both the audience and Bond himself. The more we learn about her past, her sacrifices and her unfortunate situation the more we root for her and ultimately fall in love. She’s a fully functioning three dimensional character study smack right in the middle of a brilliant action movie, and we love her for it.
First Appearance: Brave (2012). Voiced by Kelly McDonald.
Who is She?: Merida is the daughter of King Fergus and Queen Elinor of Scotland. She is free-spirited, strong-willed, and completely against her upcoming arranged marriage.
Why She’s Great: Merida is the 11th official Disney princess and she’s the first one whose entire film did not include a love interest for her. Her struggle in the film was convincing her parents that she deserved to decide her own fate and not be married off. She is courageous, intelligent, fiery and brave. But she’s also flawed in the way that most teenage girls are. Her struggle to relate to her mother and journey to finding herself and bonding with Elinor are unique to the film yet somehow incredibly relatable to so many mothers and daughters who watched the film. Merida shows us that being brave isn’t just about going on epic adventures and fighting villains, but that it’s also about being able to compromise and respect others. She is a truly fabulous character and fantastic role model.
First Appearance: Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Season 3. Portrayed by Eliza Dushku.
Who is She?: The third slayer to be activated in the series, she tries joins the Scooby Gang after her watcher is killed.
Why She’s Awesome: For those who loved the show but found the blonde slayer herself a bit too straight laced and goodie two shoes, Joss answered our prayers with Faith. She was dark, mysterious and brutal, but she also had a heart, even though many in the Scooby Gang thought otherwise. It is amazing that her character never became a vampire because she had all the makings of a fanged villain, but somehow no matter how dark she became she always turned things back around. Sure she tried to kill Buffy, several times, sure she seduced and then tried to kill Xander and Angel, but she always found a way to redeem herself. Faith could have been a one season character, a simple antithesis to Buffy. Dushku and Whedon made this woman such a powerhouse, a character in her own right who could kick major ass, be sexual and yet not overly sexualized, be dark but never lose that spark of humanity she always tried to separate from herself, that she had to stick around.
First Appearance: The Matrix. Portrayed by Carrie Ann Moss
Who is She?: One of the free humans of Zion, she is the second in command of the Nebuchadnezzar, a computer hacker, bad ass fighter and future love interest for Neo.
Why She’s Awesome: From the very first scene of The Matrix, Trinity is set up to be one of the strongest and most bad ass characters in the entire franchise, giving us one of the most iconic scenes of the series. Trinity is unique and awesome because she is able to break through gender roles in action films, she is androgynous in her appearance and the way she holds herself. Yes she is a love interest but when we first see her she is a fighter first, her body suits, although tight, do not sexialize her. She is somewhat stoic, reserved, very much focused on the mission at hand but there is so much more to her than just the leatherbound fighter we see in that first scene. Trinity is the key to the heart of the One, she is a savior in the series, helping to keep Neo on track and alive, while still keeping her duties in mind. There is no way to say this character is just one thing, she is far more complex than that, and her fight scenes are probably the most dynamic and skillful of any in the movies. She has an inner strength that commands everyone to pay attention and take heed of what she says, you would not want to be caught in a dark alley with her waiting to kick your ass.
PAM SWYNFORD DE BEAUFORT
First Appearance: True Blood, Season 1. Portrayed by Kristin Bauer Van Straten
Who is She?: A vampire in Shreveport, LA, she is second in command to her sire Eric Northman, she is also co-owner of the vampire bar Fangtasia. In her human life she was a madam for a brothel in San Francisco in 1905.
Why She’s Awesome: Pam is an interesting mix for a vampire, although she is often seen in leather corsets and dark stereotypical vampire makeup and attire, she is actually far more comfortable in a fashionable pink three piece suit, but don’t let that fool you. She would be more willing to kill someone than hold a lengthy conversation, and yet she never comes off as villainous. Pam is driven by an intense loyalty to her maker Eric, willing to do anything and everything to keep him alive and happy, even if it means killing to do so. She is a strong independant business woman on her own however, keeping Fangtasia afloat when Sookie drags Eric off to various ridiculous adventures. She has no qualms about using her vampire powers on anyone, has no feelings of sympathy for those who whine about what they are, and yet cares deeply for those in her vampire family.
First Appearance: Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981). Portrayed by Karen Allen.
Who is She?: Marion was the daughter of a revered professor and a bit of a wild woman when it came to not only getting into trouble but actively seeking it out. She’s got a mouth that’ll rival any smart-ass you’ve ever met and a drinking game to match. Simply put: she’s perfect.
Why She’s Great: How many times in these classic serial adventures did we see the dashing rogue rescue the damsel in distress, only she’s really just there to look pretty and swoon? Well Marion breaks that mold by being a damsel in distress that can more or less work her way out of it when given a chance. Yes she’s constantly kidnapped and getting into trouble but she’s not backing down from any of these situations and even manages to beat the hell out of some of her attackers! She’s a cursing, drinking every woman who cleans up nicely, has her wits about her and is always thinking about the quickest way out of a bad situation. Trouble might always find her but she’s one who welcomes the challenge and manages to drive her way out of it, and we love her for it.
First Appearance: I Love Lucy Season 1. Portrayed by Lucille Ball
Who is She?: The woman who just wants to be a star, she does everything she can to get in the spotlight which often leads to hilariously strange and awkward situations. She is married to band leader Ricky Ricardo, who must always try to reign her and her best friend Ethel in after Lucy gets them into ridiculously funny trouble.
Why She’s Awesome: Arguably one of the funniest television characters of all time, she stayed on screen for over 6 years and 181 episodes. It is hard to separate the character from the actress, but Lucille Ball was probably what Lucy Ricardo wanted to be, a star on stage and screen. Lucy, the character, took comedy in the 50’s to another tier, yes she was a wife and mother like so many other female characters, but she broke past any stereotypes for women of the time, putting herself in the most ridiculous scenarios to strive for success, just like the men of the time. Sure, she may never have actually gained any real fame but that never broke Lucy’s spirit. From doing silly vitamin commercials, to pretending to be Harpo Marx and working in that iconic chocolate factory, nothing would stand in Lucy’s way to achieve her dream. It was important to see a female character not let familial cultural expectations keep her from her dream, that a woman could shoot for the stardom she desired and still balance a real life no matter what kind of strange scenarios it took to do it.
First Appearance: The Terminator (1984). Portrayed by Linda Hamilton.
Who is She?: Having survived being targeted by a virtually unstoppable T800 Terminator cyborg Sarah Connor learned that her unborn son John would one day lead the human race in a resistance against the machine uprising. From that point she became not a survivor but a warrior, fighting for a new future.
Why She’s Great: Although Sarah Connor will be remembered as the gun toting hard-arse depicted above, one of the most fascinating aspects of the character is the transformation she goes through during the first two Terminator movies. Through her portrayal by Linda Hamilton we saw her go from an everyday waitress, freezing in the face of danger, to being able to fight for herself. In T2 she had re-emerged as strong, dangerous and determined. Even with the new outlook she retained her humanity, acting as a mother to John Connor and not being able to outright kill an innocent man in spite of the potential cost to the future. This depiction was carried across to the small screen by Lena Headey, staying true to Hamilton’s evolution of the character. Coincidently Headey’s Game of Thrones co-star Emilia Clarke in the upcoming Terminator: Genesys.
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