The Top 100 Women in Pop Culture! (Pt 5)
Here’s the end of the series! If you’ve been waiting for a particular favourite to turn up on the list hopefully she’ll be in this final round up. We’ve saved some of our favourite until last. If not let us know in the comments! Vote for this weeks favourite at the bottom!
First Appearance: Charmed Season 1, with Paige making her first appearance Season 4. Portrayed by Holly Marie Coombs, Alyssa Milano, Shannon Doherty and Rose McGowen.
Who Are They: Sisters Prue, Piper, Phoebe and later Paige, discover that they come from generations of witches. They spend their lives trying to balance their birthright of fighting demons and monsters, while still trying to lead normal lives, fall in love, have families and in the end remain strong as the power of three.
Why They’re Awesome: A lot like Buffy and the Scooby Gang, the Halliwell sisters were important to young girls in the 90s, they were strong women who fought evil and fought to just be normal. What was truly great about these women was how they gave us different personalities to connect with as an audience and yet they all created one entity of strong female power, the power of three. Prue was the eldest, strong minded practical thinker; Piper was the one fighting to have the normal family life; Phoebe was the reformed wild child in search of adventure and love; and Paige was the naive youngest sister still trying to find where she belonged. Throughout the series the importance of a strong sense of self as a woman as well as a strong connection to one’s family was emphasized, making sure that the show wasn’t just about fighting monsters. These three, technically four, sisters were able to save the day each episode, even though they dealt with real tragedy and heartbreak just like any other normal woman.
THE BRIDE (BEATRIX KIDDO)
First Appearance: Kill Bill Volume One (2003). Portrayed by Uma Thurman.
Who is She?: A highly trained martial arts expert, swordsman and professional killer going by the codename of ‘Black Mamba’. When she tries to escape her employer and start a new life her partners turn against her, leaving her in a coma from which she emerges years later with a thirst for revenge.
Why She’s Great: Quentin Tarantino does many things well, but above all things he writes cool characters. When working with Uma Thurman on Pulp Fiction Tarantino envisioned a character for her to play, a wronged assassin in a wedding dress in a blood soaked, old school action revenge flick. Thurman stepped up to the challenge and delivered The Bride, who spouts pop culture references and listens to old rock albums when she isn’t carving her way through rooms of gang members and sparring with deadly and unhinged assassins. We want nothing more than to see her get satisfaction.
SELINA KYLE aka CATWOMAN
First Appearance: Batman #1
Who is she? Selina Kyle is the high profile, supervillainess Catwoman who’s shown up to take on Gotham City for over 75 years. A cat burglar with a hell of a skill set and a seductively cunning ego, Ms. Kyle is one of the most iconic and complex characters in pop culture history.
Why she’s great: Who doesn’t love an antihero? Heroes and villains are always so much fun to root for but it’s the ones who dabble in the gray areas that might wind up being the most relatable. We all have a dark side and Selina Kyle is a pristine representation of someone who divulged that aspect rather than conform to a societal norm. She takes what she wants and doesn’t allow anyone to stand in her way, and people oftentimes flock to that free-spirited mindset. She’s one of the most complex characters you’ll find in between the pages of a comic book because of her divisive mentality and her growing arc. Her layered romantic relationship with Bruce Wayne is one that keeps readers engaged consistently, and it’s even crossed over to both Tim Burton and Christopher Nolan’s film adaptations. Selina has spent time dabbling as a villain, an antihero and a full fledged member of the Justice League of America throughout her storied run. It’s that wildcard aspect and sense of freedom that makes her an independent and take charge female role model who’s not only influential but beloved by men and women everywhere.
First Appearance: Parks and Recreation Season 1. Portrayed by Amy Poehler
Who is She?: Leslie is the optimistic and energetic Deputy Director of the Parks Department in Pawnee, Indiana.
Why She’s Great: Leslie is a go-getting in all senses of the word. She cares passionately about her job and local government and works tirelessly to help her friends, family, and townspeople. Sure, her work ethic may be over-exaggerated for the sake of comedy but she’s still proof of how working hard and caring about your job can get you places. She’s isn’t just a comedy trope though; Leslie Knope is a multi-faceted and fabulous character. She has strengths and weaknesses, she is both confident and self-conscious, and she learns many life lessons along with the humor on Parks and Recreation. Leslie is not just a great television character, she’s also a real-life inspiration.
First Appearance: Alien (1979) Portrayed by Sigourney Weaver
Who is She? A warrant officer aboard the towing vehicle “The Nostromo”, Ellen Ripley was third in command of the crew but was often looked at as the leader of their vessel. A no bullshit tough as nails woman, she excelled at not only her own job but at making everyone else around her that much better.
Why She’s Great: In my honest opinion Ellen Ripley is not only the greatest female character ever created but one of the single best film heroes to ever grace the screen. She embodies absolutely everything we love in a character from her passionate desire to succeed, her unbreakable mindset and her all around bad-ass persona. She’s literally gone to toe toe with the deadliest creatures in the galaxy and not only comes out on top but was killed AND CAME BACK AGAIN! Sigourney Weaver commands this role with such admirable screen presence and a natural calming leadership that it became an iconic performance, earning her a Best Actress Oscar nomination for Aliens. We love Ripley because simply put, she’s everything we want to be. She’s calm under pressure, she’s always the most intelligent person in the room and she won’t ever quit until her priorities are in order and her goal has been fulfilled. Ellen Ripley is an absolute force to be reckoned with and broke the gender mold for women in science-fiction as rather than being delegated to a screaming, crying victim she was the one kicking the monster’s asses. Repeatedly.
First Appearance: Superman #123 (1958).
Who is She?: Like he male counterpart Supergirl is a refugee from the doomed planet of Krypton. Kara Zor-El shares the powers of her cousin but, after being placed in suspended animation, remains a teen while Superman grew to adulthood. As a result Supergirl is less interested in shouldering the responsibilities her power gives her.
Why She’s Awesome: Supergirl was a successful character right out of the gate, proving a hit with readers. She has survived various editorial policies that tried to kill her off and replacement characters, returning back to her original version. Been a younger hero (although she was born first) than Superman, Supergirl tends to be a lighter, more fun character and remains popular with readers with little interest in Superman’s ponderous philosophies.
First Appearance: Beauty and the Beast (1991)
Who is she? A young woman from a small town in France, who often has her nose stuck in a book who finds herself face to face with a man turned beast.
Why is she great? When Belle showed up in the 90’s she was unique among the traditional Disney princesses, seeking personal growth over a traditional romantic relationships, and many of the newer princesses have followed her example. Before Belle, the Disney princesses were girls looking to find the man of their dreams to improve their lives, or save it, or they were generally lost in the world. Belle was almost the exact opposite, shunning men for books, romantic entanglements for the love of her father, and she has a firm grasp of self. Even when she does find a man, her search for knowledge and personal enrichment doesn’t wane, she doesn’t change for the man, which is the standard trope for Disney, instead she helps change the man, she saves him. Belle finally gave those girls who didn’t necessarily want to be princesses when they grew up a role model, and taught us all that even the nerdy girl can remain nerdy, find love and save the men in her life.
First Appearance: Hercules: The Legendary Journeys, Season 1 Ep. 9. Portrayed by Lucy Lawless.
Who is She? An Amazonian warrior originally set up as a ruthless mercenary set on killing Hercules, however the legendary hero is able to convince Xena that killing isn’t the only answer and that she could be more. She then changes her ways and helps save people with Hercules and then goes off on her own to take charge in her own adventures and become a new kind of hero.
Why is she awesome? She was the perfect combination of Hercules and Wonder Woman, all of the power of two superhumans in the body of a true Amazon. If you were a girl in the 90s more likely than not you wanted your very own Chakram and attempted to perfect that Xena yell. She was an icon for straight and gay women and men, although she ran around in somewhat skimpy clothing she was still taken seriously and kicked ass even in that tiny leather skirt. She is also one of those characters that started out as small arc villain, never meant to have her own series, let alone become an idol and icon. But there was just something special about Lucy Lawless and the power she had on screen that she had to be more, she had to become a true hero. She gave young girls someone to look up to, a female character who could kick ass, have love, have friends and be the savior of entire villages without the help of any man.
Firest Appearance: Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone (2001). Portrayed by Emma Watson
Who is She? Hermione is a student at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. She, along with her two best friends, must navigate the dangers and wonders of their school and outwit the scariest villain the wizarding world has ever seen.
Why She’s Great: Hermione is one of the most impressive characters in the entire Harry Potter universe. She’s incredibly smart; both in her studies and when it comes to making decisions in life. She plans ahead and thinks before she acts. She’s also fiercely brave and loyal to her friends. Hermione gave up everything to fight Voldemort alongside Harry and Ron and let’s be honest, they probably wouldn’t have made it past the first couple films if it hadn’t have been for her. Hermione is another great role model for young girls (and boys) because although she’s in House Gryffindor, she shows you that you can (and should) be wise, brave, cunning, and loyal. She really is the “brightest witch of her age”.
First Appearance: The X-Files Season 1. Portrayed by Gillian Anderson
Who is She? Scully is an FBI Agent with a brilliant educational and medical background who was tasked to work with Fox Mulder on a bunch of unsolved cases called “The X-Files”. She’s the calming, level-headed voice of reason and science to his “I WANT TO BELIEVE” attitude.
Why She’s Great: Dana Scully came along during a time where most of the FBI agents and forensic analysts on television were mostly men and she burst onto the scene in a Science-Fiction genre on top of that. She turned into an icon over night and a role model that a lot of younger girls could look up to in a genre and a profession that hadn’t seen too much variety over the years. Scully is a quick thinking character who relies on her brain and reasoning to solve crimes rather than barging into a situation with her guns blazing. Her character evolves over the years as she gets closer to Mulder and their relationship on-screen is one so powerful that it ripples through pop culture even today. She’s a powerful role model, a fiercely awesome FBI Agent and someone you can relate to when it came to how she dissected each new case of paranormal phenomenon.
First Appearance: Jackie Brown (1997). Portrayed by Pan Grier.
Who is She?: A flight attendant who pads out her income smuggling money for gun runner Ordell. When Jackie gets picked up by the ATF carrying cash and cocaine she was unaware off she decides to cut her loses and walk out of the business with a bundle of cash and no repercussion. She just has to play the right people.
Why She’s Great: We had a few other Tarantino characters who could have made the list, such as Shoshanna from Inglourious Basterds, but Jackie Brown is more than a great character. She’s a tribute genre defining characters from another age of exploitative cinema, played by one of the iconic performers of the era. She’s cool, she’s sassy and she’s tough but life has dealt her bad cards. At the beginning of the movie she’s just getting by, but by the end she’s revealed her true mettle by taking big risks and running the other players against each other.
First Appearance: Portal (2007). Voiced by Ellen McLain.
Who is She?: An artificial intelligence computer who controls the Aperture science laboratory, monitoring subjects, experiments and the personals living environment. Possibly insane.
Why She’s Great: The game Portal was released as a bonus feature in the Half-Life Orange Box collection, intended to demonstrate a feature from the main game that couldn’t be implemented on a larger scale, namely the portal gun. The small title became an instant hit and eventually produced a sequel that was produced on a much bigger budget. Some of the success can be attributed to the amazing writing and performance that brought GLADOS to life. Initially just a disembodied voice guiding you through the challenges, GLADOS is slowly revealed to be a demented, sadistic and vengeful personality with a tragic back story. Easily one of the funniest, most unique and memorable figures in gaming.
First Appearance: Underworld. Portrayed by Kate Beckinsale
Who is She? A Death Dealer, a vampire warrior tasked with hunting down and exterminating the Lycans, the werewolf enemies of vampires. Later she changes her ways, falls in love with a hybrid and completely alters all that is known about the history of the war between werewolves and vampires, and leads the charge in the future to take back the world for vampires.
Why She’s Great? Blend together Buffy, Trinity and Juliet of House Capulet and you get the badass vampire Selene. She is perhaps the first in modern movies to take on provampire role in female form, most often this genre is over saturated with men who hate what they are, not Selene, she knows what she is and uses it to every advantage. She is first and foremost a warrior, wanting nothing but to avenge her family and the ones she loves, taking any werewolves or fellow vampires that get in her way, and damn can she kick some major ass. Martial arts abilities coupled with a somewhat stoic nature, Selene is not much for humor or politics or really even romance, focused on the mission at hand and the next body she needs to take down, and yet she still has a heart. The romantic angle of her story doesn’t really change who she is though, which can often happen with female heroes, she remains the badass vamp she ever was, just with a nice hybrid man by her side.
First Appearance: Sailor Moon (1991).
Who Are They? Sailor Moon and her fellow Senshi are teenagers with the ability to magically transform into female warriors.
Why They’re Great: Sailor Moon is a hugely popular television show based on a Manga about regular girls who transform into magical superheroes all based off different heavenly bodies. Sailor Moon, or Usagi Tsukino, is the leader of the group of girls, all with different personalities and quirks. Together in their feminine and color coordinated outfits they use magic to fight against evil forces. The great thing about these ladies is that they’ve been around for years and allowed to develop into three-dimensional characters. Two of them, Sailor Uranus and Sailor Neptune, are in a relationship as well, an example of LGBT inclusion and diversity.The show and its characters has a strong fanbase, and with good reason.
First Appearance: Short Term 12 (2013). Portrayed by Brie Larsen.
Who is She?: A foster supervisor at a residential care home who deals with troubles kids on a daily basis before meeting one girl with a tale all too similar to hers.
Why She’s Great: To give a little back-story, my aunt and uncle run a foster home with some really troubled and lost children, I’ve been over their house a few times and it’s always been a surreal experience so I can only imagine what it’s like living there. Grace may not run a foster home but she’s one of the key workers there and helps out with a stern will and down-to-earth attitude, keeping friendly with the kids while never letting them forget she’s in charge. She seems to have her life together but that’s not what makes her such a great character, what does is how we watch her fall apart due to the return of some painful and long thought forgotten memories. Her hypocrisy, telling the kids to share their emotions when she could never do the same, is understandable but she never lets that flaw in her armour get in the way of her work. Larson injects the character with a power to raise your spirits one scene then break your heart the next, she carries some harsh emotions but all in service of Grace, making her one of the most endearing and outright incredible characters ever put to screen.
DETECTIVE OLIVIA BENSON
First Appearance: Law & Order: Special Victims Unit, Season 1. Portrayed by Mariska Hargitay.
Who is She? Detective in New York’s Special Victims Unit, which handles the most henious sex crimes imaginable.
Why is she awesome? A strong female presence on a crime drama is important, and Olivia Benson goes above and beyond what we normally get for female detectives on television. She is one of the few women we see move up the ranks from a detective all the way up to the top tier as Captain. The Law and Order franchise changes out charactesr pretty much every few years until the cast becomes recognizable, but detective Olivia Benson remains, she is one of the few characters to appear in all 348 episodes. We have watched her deal with a painful backstory and some of the worst cases of sexual assault and abuse, all of which could have easily broken any other character and forced them into vices and destructive behavior and throughout it all she just got stronger. Many times with female detectives they either fall into relationships with their male partners, which can have drastic negative effects on the character and the show, but Olivia is able to rise above it. Even though she had an intense relationship with her male partner, Stabler, it never fell into the trap of Moonligthing, even though there was sexual chemistry she remained professional throughout it all, which just made her more realistic and powerful in the end.
First Appearance: The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring (2001) Portrayed by Liv Tyler
Who is She? Arwen is the daughter of Elrond, Lord of Rivendell and the goddaughter of Lady Galadriel, two of the most powerful and revered elves in all of Middle-Earth.
Why she’s great: The Lord of the Rings is filled with legendary heroes that have filled the minds and hearts of readers and filmgoers since they were first introduced, and Arwen might be one of the most overlooked. She doesn’t have her defining moment like Aragorn or her scene-stealing action scenes like Legolas but what she does have is an unbreakable will that rivals even Frodo Baggins. It takes true strength and bravery to sacrifice your own life when faced with immortality but that’s exactly what Arwen did. She chose a mortal life against the wishes of both her father and Aragorn in order to be with the one that she truly loved. A lot of people see that as her choosing “love over life” but I always saw that as a self-sacrifice for her to live the life SHE WANTED. Both her father and her lover were telling her what to do but rather than obey their wishes and do what is expected of her she went with her own passionate desires. It’s another strong female archetype for Tolkien and a metaphor of the women of that time period who were relegated to standing on the sidelines and “doing what they were told”. If that isn’t strong enough she has her own physical traits and cunning talents as she’s the best rider amongst our heroes and manages to save Frodo’s life. Oh, and in case I forgot, she outran all 9 Nazgul at once while TAKING THEM OUT AT THE SAME DAMN TIME. Sure it’s Elrond in the books but the change for the film was a change for the better and it demonstrates Arwen’s multi-faceted aspects that make her a true hero and a deeply poetic character.
PRINCESS LEIA ORGANA
First Appearance: Star Wars (1977). Portrayed by Carrie Fisher.
Who is She?: To the public she’s the princess of planet Alderaan, a bold leader. She’s also a leader of the rebellion, a small group of fighters trying to overthrow the Galactic Empire. What she doesn’t know is that her own father is Darth Vader, a key figure in the Empire.
Why She’s Awesome: Princess Leia is the definitive sci-fi heroine for the modern age. Although a Princess by name she’s a strong willed rebel who doesn’t flinch when standing toe to toe with the towering and menacing Darth Vader. Leia is so driven by her cause she doesn’t succumb to torture or threats against her people, and when she is rescued by Luke and Han she keeps her mission front and centre. She breaks the damsel in distress trope by taking matters into her own hands and strangling the monstrous Jabba with a chain.
First Appearance: Game of Thrones Season 1. Portrayed by Emilia Clarke
Who is She? Daenereys Targaryen is a fiercely strong and independent player in Westeros with her own worthy claim to the throne.
Why She’s Great: The Khaleesi is such a beloved and well honored feminist hero because she’s persevered through so much and continues to rise and rule over men. This is a character that started off as nothing more than a slave and bargaining chip for the last family member she had left in the world. She was repeatedly raped, beaten and treated as a secondary citizen as she was sold into a marriage she sadly had no say in. She literally starts with ABSOLUTELY NOTHING but uses her cunning wit to continuously gain power through various well-executed ploys and growing relationships. Daenerys eventually climbs the ranks by giving birth to three dragons (thus earning the “Mother of Dragons” moniker) and transitioning to a full-fledged icon with a massive army at her beckoning call. She’s inspiring for so many different ways but really makes her a unique character is that aside from her strength and resilience she’s vulnerable too. She makes mistakes, she constantly questions her own judgment and she wonders if she’s going about ruling in a rightful manner. That sort of vulnerability is something we can all relate to and her seemingly impossible rise to power is one that’s hard not to root for.
First Appearance: Avatar: The Legend of Korra Season 1. Voiced by Janet Varney.
Who is She?: Into every generation is born an Avatar, one person in all the four nations who can bend all four elements. Charged with holding the balance between the human and spirit worlds and keeping peace throughout the land the young Korra knows her place in the world but struggles to meet the expectation.
Why She’s Awesome: For many this character was a gamble. Avatar: The Last Airbender is one of the greatest television shows ever produced and much of it’s brilliance was due to the characters. Following up the series with a story taking place after the lead character had died and the remaining had gone from teens to retirement age and a new cast may have been as bad as…well…the Last Airbender movie. Instead we saw a natural progression for the fictional world, one feeling the repercussions of the original series events, and an interesting new group of characters who stand as individuals from the original cast. When we’re introduced to Korra she’s a headstrong and confident fighter who is willing to take responsibility as the Avatar, but needs to find her spiritual side before she can understand the consequences of her actions on those around her. With one more series in her story we’re hanging out to see how she develops further.